kneecap
v. To undermine a person or injure a person's reputation in a particularly vicious manner.
kneecapping n., pp.
kneecapper n.

Example Citations:
The Reagans is an outrage, a kneecapping of a true American hero and a spit in the face of decency by CBS, the network that dared — until it didn't — to air it.
—Bill Goodykoontz, "CBS viewers should have judged merits of 'Reagans'," The Arizona Republic, November 8, 2003

Was it kneecapping or bad execution and inferior technology that saw Sun Microsystems Inc's Java technology displaced from Windows by archrival Microsoft Corp?
—"Judge asks Whether Microsoft Kneecapped Java," ComputerWire News, December 6, 2002

Earliest Citation:
Opposing a veto are some of the major oil firms, farm groups, the National Governors Association, food processors, truckers, some refining groups and independent gasoline retailers, and Senate Republicans, including the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, James A. McClure (R-Idaho). ...

A veto would be "a major embarrassment to McClure," said Jack Blum, general counsel for the Independent Gasoline Marketers Council, one of the groups that favors the bill. "It would be sort of like kneecapping their chairman."
—Martha M. Hamilton, "The Lobbying War Over Oil Controls," The Washington Post, March 14, 1982

Notes:
This verb comes from the gangland practice of kneecapping, shooting or clubbing a person in one or both knees as a punishment or as a deliberate attempt to hobble. (For the latter, recall Tonya Harding's henchmen kneecapping Nancy Kerrigan just before the 1994 Olympic figure skating competition.) This sense of the verb kneecap has been in the language since about 1975 and, as the earliest citation attests, it didn't take long for the more general sense to appear. Thanks to subscriber Laurie Mullikin for asking about this verb.

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