“America uses 20 percent of the world’s oil, and we’ve got 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves. I wasn’t a math major, but if you’re using 20, you’ve only got 2, that means you got to bring in the rest from someplace else.”
— President Obama, remarks on energy, Boulder City, Nev., March 21, 2012
“The fact of the matter is we use 20 percent of the world’s oil. But even if we drilled every square inch of this country, we’d still only have 2 or 3 or 4 percent of the world’s known oil reserves.”
--Obama, remarks on energy, Maljamar, New Mexico, March 21
“We can’t just rely on drilling. Not when we use more than 20 percent of the world’s oil, but still only have 2 percent of the world’s known oil reserves.”
— Obama, weekly radio address, March 17
“There’s a problem with a strategy that only relies on drilling and that is, America uses more than 20 percent of the world’s oil. If we drilled every square inch of this country — so we went to your house and we went to the National Mall and we put up those rigs everywhere — we’d still have only 2 percent of the world’s known oil reserves. Let’s say we miss something — maybe it’s 3 percent instead of 2. We’re using 20; we have 2.
“Now, you don’t need to be getting an excellent education at Prince George’s Community College to know that we’ve got a math problem here. I help out Sasha occasionally with her math homework and I know that if you’ve got 2 and you’ve got 20, there’s a gap. There’s a gap, right?”
— Obama, remarks on energy, Prince George’s County, March 15
In response to reader comments and new information, we are revisiting two previous columns and making a rare change in our Pinocchio rating for two unrelated statements made by President Obama and Mitt Romney.
The feedback we get from readers, both positive and negative, is invaluable. We also try to be consistent in our use of the Pinocchio scale, and are always willing to reconsider rulings in the face of new evidence.
“This IPAB board can ration care and deny certain Medicare treatments so Washington can fund more wasteful spending. ...Medicare will be bankrupt in nine years.”
— Musician Pat Boone, in a television ad sponsored by the 60 Plus Association
A number of readers asked us to examine the latest claims about Medicare, made this week by both GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney and a conservative advocacy group called the 60 Plus Association.
Actually, there is little new in either the 60 Plus Association’s $3.5 million ad campaign, featuring the venerable Pat Boone, or the “Five Questions for President Obama on Medicare” issued by the Romney campaign. We feel we have dealt with similar claims in the past, but apparently that has not deterred such attacks.
The Romney statement is amusing because it constantly repeats the phrase “ending Medicare as we know it”—which in turn has been a Democratic attack line against a House GOP plan for Medicare. (Democrats used to simply say “end Medicare” or “kill Medicare” until The Fact Checker and other fact checking organizations called them on it.)
Indeed, both parties are absolutely shameless about Medicare. (For instance, the Democratic National Committee attacked Romney on Medicare this week.) Both claim that other party would kill/destroy/ruin/whatever Medicare; neither side has much of a leg to stand on.
Someone must be falling for this stuff, however, or else it would not keep getting repeated.
The current Medicare system, in place since the mid-1960s, is essentially a government-run health care program, with hospital and doctors’ fees paid by the government, though beneficiaries also pay premiums for some services as well as deductibles and coinsurance.
“Mitt Romney — against individual mandates except when he’s for them.”
— New DNC Web ad attacking Romney
Many Democratic attacks on Mitt Romney suggest that he is a politician without conviction, and someone who will “say anything” to get elected. A new Democratic National Committee Web ad follows that pattern, highlighting a series of TV clips that aim at a perceived vulnerability of the former Massachusetts governor: his successful effort to create universal health care in his state.
President Obama’s health-care law was largely built around the concept of an individual mandate, as was Romney’s law. Romney, however, has insisted that he never intended to take the concept nationwide, but that each state could decide for itself how best to promote universal coverage.
This ad uses the clips — some of which we had not seen before — to suggest that Romney actually did support a national mandate, even when he now says he is against it. But how accurate is this claim?
Readers should be wary of campaign ads that show many little clips, because a line or two can be taken out of context. One of the first things we do when fact-checking an ad like this is to look at the entire TV interview or debate segment, to understand why the comment in question was made.
“I’m standing next to a guy who is the most blatantly dishonest answers I can remember in any presidential race in — in my lifetime.... I don’t know how you debate a person with civility if they’re prepared to say things that are just plain factually false.”
— Newt Gingrich, Jan. 29, 2012
The slugfest between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich comes to a head Tuesday in Florida, where Gingrich is running behind because of a deluge of negative campaign ads by Romney and his allies and the perception that Romney bested him in the last two debates.
It’s tough to keep up with the various charges the two men have thrown at each other — Gingrich even brought up an ancient Romney veto concerning kosher food on Monday — so here is a guide to their most recent and most frequent claims.
(In addition to various columns on attack ads and charges, we previously looked at some of Romney’s claims about Gingrich when the battlefront had first moved to Florida.)
“His experience as speaker of the House end[ed] so badly, with an ethics scandal and him having to resign in disgrace and with his own members, 88 percent of them Republican members, voting to reprimand him.”
— Romney, Jan. 30, 2012
Here, the former Massachusetts governor echoes one of his TV ads, which we have already labeled as misleading. Gingrich was reprimanded, but he did not resign until two years later for reasons that had nothing to do with the reprimand he received from the House over an ethics issue. That issue involved whether it was proper for a tax-exempt foundation associated with the speaker to finance a college course that he had put together.
“At the center of one such Medicare scheme: Mitt Romney. It is a story of fraud. It is a story of big profits, big lies and at the time the biggest criminal fine for health fraud ever levied in Massachusetts history.”
— Voice-over from “Blood Money: Romney’s Medicare Scandal,” a video produced by pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC Winning Our Future.
Winning Our Future, a Super PAC supporting Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, has released another attack on rival Mitt Romney’s business practices. A one-minute “trailer” and a 30-second TV ad (see below) that amplify the themes of corporate malfeasance accompany the nearly eight-minute video, “Blood Money.” (The title refers to the fact that a company once partly owned by Bain Capital, Romney’s firm, was found guilty of charging Medicare for unnecessary blood tests.)
We were highly critical of Winning Our Future’s “King of Bain” film, awarding it Four Pinocchios, in part because it focused on business failures in which Romney was only tangentially involved. And anyone living in Massachusetts would find this Medicare fraud case to be old news because the case first emerged in 1992 as an issue in Romney’s successful race for governor.
Still, this time Winning Our Future gets closer to the mark. The case concerning Damon Clinical Laboratories is relevant because 1) Romney was a director of the firm while the fraud took place; 2) the fraud appears to have ended only after Bain sold its stake in the firm; 3) Romney personally earned nearly $500,000 from the sale of Damon; and 4) Romney’s statements about what he knew and when he knew it have been inconsistent.
We’re going to hear a lot more about Damon if Romney becomes the GOP presidential nominee. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union is already running an ad in Florida that highlights the case. (The spot is at the end of the column.)
Let’s take a closer look:
In 1996, the Justice Department announced that Damon had agreed to pay a $35.3 million criminal fine — one of the largest corporate fines in U.S. history — and an additional $83.7 million to settle whistle-blower lawsuits. The company, then owned by Corning, admitted that from 1988 to 1993 it had bolstered its earnings by submitting false claims to Medicare and other federal programs. Essentially, the firm billed for blood tests that doctors had not ordered.
We can hardly believe that there won’t be another GOP presidential debate for about a month—assuming there are enough candidates left. Here’s our round-up of bloopers and dubious statements at the CNN debate in Jacksonville, Fla., in the the order in which they were made.
As always, we may delve deeper into other statements in the coming days — and please remember that we do not award Pinocchios for instant fact checks, only full columns.
“What I said was: We want everybody to learn English because we don’t want — I didn’t use the word ‘Spanish.’”
— Newt Gingrich
Gingrich complained about a radio ad aired by the Romney campaign that claimed that Gingrich had said that Spanish was “the language of the ghetto.” (Romney at first suggested he was not familiar with the ad, but it ends with his voice saying he approved of it.)
Mitt Romney on Tuesday issued a “prebuttal” to President Obama’s State of the Union address, delivering his remarks at a shuttered drywall factory in Tampa. The speech made sense for the struggling GOP candidate on several levels: The former Massachusetts governor wanted to look presidential to dampen the surge by rival Newt Gingrich, and he wanted to dull any campaign edge that the president might gain that evening through his national address.
Romney focused his attacks on economic issues, listing a series of supposed facts about Obama’s policies and their results. Here are some of the key claims:
“The President will do what he does best. He will give a nice speech with a lot of memorable phrases. But he won’t give you the hard numbers. Like 9.9 – that’s the unemployment rate in this state.”
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for Florida show that Romney was right about this one.
“While Florida families lost everything in the housing crisis, Newt Gingrich cashed in. Gingrich was paid over $1.6 million by the scandal-ridden agency that helped create the crisis.”
— voiceover in a new Mitt Romney ad attacking Newt Gingrich
The nasty nomination battle between former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has moved to Florida, where Romney has launched a slashing ad attacking Gingrich for his business ties to mortgage giant Freddie Mac. Let’s take a look at the various claims in the ad.
“While Florida families lost everything in the housing crisis, Newt Gingrich cashed in. Gingrich was paid over $1.6 million by the scandal-ridden agency that helped create the crisis.”
The ad strains to make a connection between Gingrich’s service for Freddie Mac and the housing collapse in the economic crisis. The video cites a Kansas City Star editorial that said Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac “were at the heart of the crisis” but that’s a matter of opinion. Other experts disagree strongly.
“If you look at cap-and-trade, Gov. Romney was very proud to say that he was the first state in the country as governor to sign a cap on CO-2 emissions, the first state in the country to put a cap believing in global warming — and criticized Republicans for not believing in it.”
— Rick Santorum, during NBC News debate in Tampa, Jan. 23, 2012
“When he was governor of Massachusetts, he put forth ‘RomneyCare,’ which was not a bottom-up, free-market system. It was a government-run healthcare system that was the basis of ‘Obamacare.’ And it has been an abject failure, and he has stood by it. He's stood by the fact that it's $8 billion more expensive than under the current law. He's stood by the fact that Massachusetts has the highest health insurance premiums of any state in the country; it is 27 percent more expensive than the average state in the country. Doctors — if you're in the Massachusetts health care system, over 50 percent of the doctors now are not seeing new patients -- primary care doctors are not seeing new patients. Those who do get to see a patient are waiting 44 days, on average, for the care.
A lot of those people were, as you know, on Medicare and Medicaid, so they're already on government insurance, and you just expanded it, in fact. Over half the people who came on the rolls since you put ‘RomneyCare’ into effect are fully subsidized by the state of Massachusetts, and a lot of those are on the Medicaid program.”
-- Santorum, during CNN debate in Charleston, S.C., Jan. 19, 2012
These quotes represent some of the most pointed attacks Rick Santorum has made against Mitt Romney during the past two debates, as he tries to portray the two GOP frontrunners as moderates — he dished out similar cap-and-trade criticism toward Newt Gingrich during the Tampa debate. (We have previously examined Gingrich’s flip-flop on this issue.)
The first set of remarks draw a distinction between Santorum and Romney on environmental issues. The second is a detailed litany suggesting the former Bay State governor doesn’t stand a chance of distinguishing himself from President Obama when it comes to health care during the general election.
We researched Romney’s stance on cap-and-trade and examined the effects of the Massachusetts health-care law to find out how close Santorum’s remarks came to the truth. We already wrote about the Massachusetts health-care overhaul in our biographical series about Romney, but we’re always willing to dive a little deeper on that subject.
A Wall Street Journal article from October 2011 noted that Romney strongly supported cap-and-trade while serving as governor of Massachusetts. It reports that he stood outside an old coal-fired plant in 2003, promising activists, “I will not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people, and that plant, that plant kills people.”
There were fewer fireworks Monday night as we continued our long march through GOP Endless Debate World, but still many dubious facts and statistics popped up at the debate hosted by NBC News with the National Journal and the Tampa Bay Times. We will examine some key ones in the order in which they were made, reserving the right to examine others in more detail in the coming days.
As is our practice, we do not award Pinocchio ratings during instant debate fact checks, only in full length columns.
“When I was speaker [of the House], we had four consecutive balanced budgets, the only time in your lifetime, Brian, that we’ve had four consecutive balanced budgets.”
— Newt Gingrich
Mitt Romney on Monday threw out new charges and innuendo against former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, in what may be the political equivalent of throwing spaghetti against the wall—seeing what sticks. We’ve examined the often bogus charges made by Gingrich allies (and the Obama campaign) about Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital. So let’s take a look at what is known about the issues raised by Romney.
The Romney campaign accompanied its attack with a new ad amplifying some of these claims, which we will also examine soon. But first here is a guide to the latest rhetoric.
“I agree with Governor Romney on many things, for instance abortion. He was pro-choice most of his adult life, so was I. But he changed his position when he became presidential candidate Romney. Now, let’s take guns. Governor Romney and I, we were in complete agreement on gun control — now that is, until he changed his mind. And on health care, well, I was so inspired by Romneycare that I nationalized it and called it Obamacare. Now presidential candidate Romney is against the individual mandate and universal health care.”
— Remarks by a cartoon President Obama during a fictionalized debate with Mitt Romney, depicted in an ad from the pro-Newt Gingrich Super PAC Winning Our Future.
Gingrich describes himself as the only viable candidate left in the GOP race, and this innovative cartoon ad — the first of its kind that we’ve seen — feeds into that narrative, attacking one of Romney’s perceived strengths: his supposed ability to challenge Obama.
The Post’s Fix reports that this video is the first in a three-part series envisioning potential debates between Romney and the sitting president. It illustrates an increasingly negative strategy by Gingrich and his supporters since the candidate’s lackluster finishes in the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries. The approach appears to be working, with a new CNN poll showing Romney losing ground in South Carolina — an equally likely explanation is that the other candidates are resonating with Palmetto State voters.
Two debates in a week…and another two next week. This could get tiring. Here’s quick round-up of some of the more dubious or interesting claims at the CNN Debate in Charleston, examined in the order in which they were made. As always, we may come back to do a fuller look at other, more elusive claims in the coming days.
A reminder: we do not award Pinocchios in these sorts of debate round-ups, only in full-length columns.
“The Corps of Engineers today takes eight years to study — not to complete — to study doing the port. We won the entire second World War in three years and eight months.”
— Newt Gingrich
We are not sure whether the U.S. involvement in World War II has any relevance to a study about whether to deepen the Charleston Port from 45 to 50 feet. Kudos to Gingrich for knowing local issues, but according to local news reports the Corps said that such a study would normally take five to eight years but “Corps officials say they are streamlining the review and approval process as much as possible to save time.”
“Romney closed over a thousand plants, stores and offices, and cut employee wages, benefits and pensions. He laid off American workers and outsourced their jobs to other countries. And he and his partners made hundreds of millions of dollars while taking companies to bankruptcy.”
-- Stephanie Cutter, Obama campaign memo titled “Romney’s Economic Record: Profit at Any Cost,” Jan. 13, 2012
The game of numbers between the Obama and Romney campaigns is getting a bit silly. Romney started it by making the untenable claim that he helped create more than 100,000 jobs, a figure that included jobs created by companies long after Romney’s involvement had ended in the businesses. (In the recent debate, he modified his statement to make it a tad more accurate.)
Now, apparently believing that’s what good for the goose is good for the gander, the Obama campaign has upped the ante by blaming Romney for job losses and bad deals that took place after he stopped working at Bain Capital in early 1999 in order to run the Salt Lake City Olympics. As we will demonstrate, they use a technicality to accomplish this.
We will examine the statement that Romney “closed over a thousand plants, stores and offices.”
First of all, note that the statement starts with “plants” and then pads it with “stores and offices.” As far as we can tell, there are only handful of plants on this list – Ampad (two), GS Industries (two), Dade Behring (three). The big number on this list comes from store closings -- in particular 600 stores shut down by KB Toys after it filed for bankruptcy protection in 2004.
And then there were five ... which made for a feisty evening of misstatements. We focused on 11, and may come back for more later in the week. Let’s take them in the order in which they were made.
“As [House] speaker, I came back, working with President Bill Clinton. We passed a very Reagan-like program: less regulation, lower taxes. Unemployment dropped to 4.2 percent. We created 11 million jobs.”
— Newt Gingrich
Former president Clinton would be shocked at this description, since he always credited the 22 million jobs created during his presidency to the deficit-reduction package he narrowly passed early in his tenure without a single GOP vote.
“This is a story of greed, of playing the system for a quick buck, a group of corporate raiders led by Mitt Romney more ruthless than Wall Street. For tens of thousands of Americans, the suffering began when Mitt Romney came to town.”
— Voice-over from “King of Bain” video promoted by a pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC, “Winning Our Future.”
Newt Gingrich, meet Michael Moore!
The 29-minute video “King of Bain” is such an over-the-top assault on former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney that it is hard to know where to begin. It uses evocative footage from distraught middle-class Americans who allege that Romney’s deal-making is responsible for their woes. It mixes images of closed factories and shuttered shops with video clips of Romney making him look foolish, vain or greedy. And it has a sneering voice-over that seeks to push every anti-Wall Street button possible.
Here’s just a sampling of what Romney and Bain Capital, which he once headed, is accused of: “Stripping American businesses of assets, selling everything to the highest bidder and often killing jobs for big financial rewards . . . high disdain for American businesses and workers . . . upended the company and dismantled the work force; now they were able to make a handsome profit . . . cash rampage . . . contributing to the greatest American job loss since World War II . . . turn the misfortune of others into their own enormous financial gain.”
The video ends with a crescendo of images of despair, with voices of the victims adding emotional punch: “A lot of lives were ruined . . . he took away our livelihoods . . . he took away our future . . . he destroyed a lot of homes . . . it all gets back to greed.” (Irritatingly, few of these ordinary citizens are identified.)
The video is reminiscent of the devastating series of attack ads released by then-Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) that derailed Romney’s Senate campaign in 1994. In fact, we’d swear some of the people interviewed for “King of Bain,” who are identified as working for Ampad in Marion, Ind., are the same as those interviewed for the Kennedy ads at SCM, which Ampad acquired. They just look two decades older. (We have embedded a collection of the Kennedy ads at the end of this column.)
Let’s take a look at some of the claims in “King of Bain.” The video clip above is from a 60-second commercial aired by “Winning Our Future.” The full video can be found here. As we will demonstrate, at least some of the interviews of ordinary citizens appear to have been conducted under misleading pretenses and have been selectively edited to leave a false impression.
First of all, it is a stretch to portray Romney as some sort of corporate raider, akin to Carl Icahn (whose image is briefly seen). Bain Capital initially was in the business of providing venture capital — seed money — for start-ups, such as Staples. Then it moved to the more lucrative business of private equity, in which Bain won control of firms, reorganized them and then sold them for profit. (Our colleague Suzy Khimm earlier this week did an excellent job of explaining the two sides of Bain Capital.)
"What happened after Massachusetts moderate Mitt Romney changed his position from pro-abortion to pro-life? He governed pro-abortion. Romney appointed a pro-abortion judge, expanded access to abortion pills, put Planned Parenthood on a state medical board but failed to put a pro-life group on the same board.”
— Newt Gingrich ad attacking Mitt Romney
Gingrich, still justifiably angry at a tough ad by a Romney-affiliated Super PAC that mischaracterized his position on abortion, has counterattacked with his own ad that calls into question Romney’s support for restrictions on abortion.
Romney, of course, has spoken openly about his conversion on the abortion issue, so Gingrich must prove that Romney was an inconsistent convert to the cause of fighting abortion. Romney’s record was certainly inconsistent but was it indeed “pro-abortion”? Let’s look at some of the claims in this ad.
The definitive list of Romney flip-flops on abortion was compiled in 2007 by our predecessor as The Fact Checker, the estimable Michael Dobbs. After meticulously examining Romney’s twists and turns on the issue, Dobbs awarded Romney Three Pinocchios for his comments on abortion, saying he has “changed his position so often on abortion that he lacks much credibility” to claim that every piece of legislation he signed as governor was “on the side of preserving the sanctity of life.”
“In the business I had, we invested in over 100 different businesses and net-net, taking out the ones where we lost jobs and those that we added, those businesses have now added over 100,000 jobs.”
— Mitt Romney, Jan. 7, 2012
Last week, when we first looked at the former Massachusetts governor’s claim that “we helped create over 100,000 new jobs,” his campaign provided a list that included the growth in jobs from three companies that it said Romney helped to start or grow while at Bain Capital: Staples (a gain of 89,000 jobs), The Sports Authority (15,000 jobs), and Domino’s (7,900 jobs).
As we noted, “This tally obviously does not include job losses from other companies with which Bain Capital was involved — and are based on current employment figures, not the period when Romney worked at Bain.”
In Saturday’s ABC News-Yahoo debate, Romney expanded on the list: “There’s a steel company called Steel Dynamics in Indiana, thousands of jobs there; Bright Horizons Children's Centers, about 15,000 jobs there; Sports Authority, about 15,000 jobs there, Staples alone, 90,000 employed. That's a business that we helped start from the ground up.”
Last week, when we looked at this 100,000 figure, we evaluated it along with Romney’s claims about President Obama’s job creation figures, which overall earned One Pinocchio. Earlier, we had ruled that it was all but impossible to prove or disprove Romney’s claims on job creation. But in light of Romney’s comments during the debate and some additional research, we have come to a new assessment.
By all accounts, Romney was a highly successful venture capitalist. While running Bain Capital, he helped pick some real winners, earning his investors substantial returns. High finance is a difficult subject to convey in a sound bite, so Romney evidently has chosen to focus on job creation.
Boy, three- and-a- half hours of debates to check this weekend! The candidates were up to their usual tricks and so the list of suspect statements is long and varied. We will go through them quickly, in the order the statements were made, beginning with the ABC News/Yahoo debate on Saturday night. After that, we tackle the Meet the Press/Facebook debate from Sunday morning. As always, we may take a deeper look at some assertions later in the week.
THE ABC NEWS/YAHOO DEBATE, JAN. 7, 2012
“But in the business I had, we invested in over 100 different businesses and net-net, taking out the ones where we lost jobs and those that we added, those businesses have now added over 100,000 jobs.”
Last week, when Romney mentioned this statistic, his campaign said the 100,000 figure was based on the number of employees at three companies with which Bain Capital was involved.
“I have never called an opponent of mine a liar. That's just sort of a line that you don't usually cross.”
--Sen. John McCain, Jan. 5, 2012, speaking about Newt Gingrich’s complaint about Mitt Romney
When we saw this quote by John McCain, we were a bit surprised because we remember this Associated Press article from the 2008 campaign.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Republican John McCain is calling Democratic rival Barack Obama a liar.
The GOP presidential candidate told a campaign rally: "Sen. Obama has accused me of opposing regulation to avert this crisis. I guess he believes if a lie is big enough and repeated often enough it will be believed."
In some of the harshest language yet, McCain said the campaign comes down to a simple question: Who is the real Barack Obama?
McCain drew the loudest cheers when he said the Democrat has written two memoirs but "he's not exactly an open book."
Trailing in the polls, McCain and his advisers say they will hammer that theme as the campaign heads toward the Nov. 4 election.
Here’s a video of the McCain’s speech.
When we asked McCain spokesman Brian Rogers for comment, he replied: “There’s a clear and obvious difference between name-calling (which Senator McCain was referring to this morning) and defending against false attacks.”
Gingrich was defending himself against what he views as false attacks by Romney supporters, but we will leave this question to readers: Is this a distinction without a difference?
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“And I'm very happy in my former life; we helped create over 100,000 new jobs. By the way, we created more jobs in Massachusetts than this president’s created in the entire country. So if the president wants to talk about jobs, and I hope he does, we’ll be comparing my record with his record and he comes up very, very short.”
— Mitt Romney, Jan. 3, 2012
It’s a new year, and we already have new claims about job creation. The Romney campaign was sufficiently proud of this quote, made on “Fox and Friends,” that it blast-e-mailed it to reporters.
As we have mentioned before, the notion that a president – or particularly a governor – can magically create jobs with a set of policies is a bit of a stretch. Broadly speaking, presidential policies can certainly have an impact, but even a president is at the mercy of the business cycle. Obama became president in the midst of the worst recession in memory, so obviously that is going to be a drag on his “job-creation record.”
The Romney campaign provided a link to Bureau of Labor Statistics data showing that during Romney’s four-year term as Massachusetts governor, the number of jobs went up 61,000. By contrast, the number of jobs under Obama has dropped by 1.86 million.
“As Speaker, Gingrich supported taxpayer funding of some abortions.”
--from a new ad in Iowa sponsored by “Restore Our Future”
Super PACS will cause endless headaches for fact checkers this political season. The advertisements they produce are often insidiously inaccurate.
A good example is the latest advertisement trashing Newt Gingrich, “Smile,” by Mitt Romney’s Super PAC--Restore Our Future--which is spending more than $3 million just in Iowa in the weeks before the Jan. 3 caucuses. The former House Speaker certainly has some baggage from his long political career, as the ad asserts, but that would be all the more reason not to need to twist the truth.
Brittany Gross, a Restore Our Future spokesman, declined to answer questions. “We aren’t commenting on the ad,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Thanks for reaching out.”
Let’s take a tour through some of the more egregious fouls in the ad.
“Freddie Mac, which helped cause the economic collapse, paid Newt Gingrich $30,000 an hour for a total of at least $1.6 million.”
The suggestion here is that Freddie Mac caused the 2008 economic crash, which is a simplistic assertion. Restore Our Future cited as a source an opinion article written by Peter Wallison of the American Enterprise Institute.
It’s the final GOP debate before the Iowa caucuses. Let’s take a tour of the factually dubious statements made by the candidates, in the order in which they said them. As is our practice, we do not award Pinocchios during debate round-ups, though we will mention if a candidate has repeated something that we have previously rated.
“I balanced the budget for four straight years, paid off $405 billion in debt — pretty conservative. The first entitlement reform of your lifetime — in fact, the only major entitlement reform to now is welfare.”
— Newt Gingrich
Gingrich loves to make this claim, but it is simply not correct and is lacking context.
Listening to Gingrich, you would be forgiven for forgetting there was a president (Bill Clinton) in office at the time the nation started running a budget surplus.
“Mitt Romney turned around dozens of American companies and helped create thousands of jobs. He rescued an Olympics hit by scandal; took over a state facing huge deficits, and he turned it around without raising taxes, vetoing hundreds of bills.”
— Comments in recent ad by pro-Romney PAC Restore our Future
The claims in this ad cover just about about everything we fact-checked for the Mitt Romney biographical series, minus the comment about vetoes. The commercial has been running frequently in Iowa, so we’ll rehash some of the issues we found with its assertions, all of which echo previous remarks by the former Massachusetts governor.
Romney co-founded and led the investment firm Bain Capital, which made an incredibly pretty penny as a pioneer in the field of leveraged buyouts, according to a prospectus obtained by the L.A. Times.
It may have been bad politics for Mitt Romney to offer a $10,000 bet to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, but it’s a good thing Perry didn’t take it. He would have lost a fair chunk of change. Here’s our round-up of misses and bloopers committed by the GOP candidates in Saturday’s ABC-Yahoo debate, held at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, in the order in which they made them.
“Well, I think that there’s a clear record, I worked with Ronald Reagan in the early ‘80s and his recovery program translated into today’s population of about 25 million new jobs in a seven-year period. As Speaker of the House, I worked with President Clinton and he followed with a very similar plan. And we ended up with about 11 million new jobs in a four-year period.”
The former House Speaker conveniently ignores the fact that Bill Clinton pushed through a major tax increase on the wealthy in 1993 which, combined with the boom in technology stocks, brought forth a gusher of tax revenue that helped eliminate the budget deficit. Gingrich at the time predicted economic disaster when Clinton won approval of his tax increase with not a single Republican vote.
"He has bowed to foreign dictators"
— Mitt Romney, Dec. 7, 2011
“1,584 holes since 2009”
— Romney campaign Web site fortyfore.com
In recent days, the Romney campaign has attacked President Obama on two seemingly trivial matters that seek to undermine his character — his alleged “bowing” to foreign leaders and his propensity to play golf. As the Web site says, “It’s time to have a president whose idea of being ‘hands on’ doesn’t mean getting a better grip on the golf club.”
So what’s story behind these claims?
Bowing to foreign dictators
Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said that “the term ‘bowed to foreign dictators’ is metaphorical but the leaders Obama literally bowed to were the Saudi King, Emperor of Japan, and Chinese President Hu Jintao.”
“Senator McCain's campaign actually said, and I quote, ‘if we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose.’”
— Then-Sen. Barack Obama, Oct. 16, 2008
We resisted writing about Mitt Romney’s first television ad when it was released just before Thanksgiving, on the grounds that the issue — whether the ad misquoted President Obama — had been thoroughly and quickly discussed. We sometimes also see little need to fact check items that have been already debunked by one political faction or the other.
But readers have repeatedly asked us to weigh in, and the ad was once again in the news this week after a report in The New York Times by our former colleague Thomas Edsall quoted an anonymous “top operative” in the Romney campaign as defending the ad because “ads are propaganda by definition…. Ads are about hyperbole, they are about editing…. They are manipulative pieces of persuasive art.”
Excuse us for appearing cynical, but Romney’s supposed adviser is simply stating a truth practiced by both political parties. We’ve seen plenty of Four-Pinocchio ads in our time, and this Romney ad does not make the cut.
The ad opens with a headline: “On October 16, 2008, Barack Obama Visited New Hampshire.” Then grainy scenes flash by of Obama speaking as more headlines flash by, such as: “He Promised He Would Fix the Economy…. He Failed”
“I don’t think I want to characterize Newt at this point, other than to point out our very distinct difference with regards to background. I think if America feels that we need somebody who’s lived in Washington for the last 40 years to run the country, he’s a good choice.”
— Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, on “Fox and Friends,” Dec. 2, 2011
Romney, trying to draw a contrast with the surging Newt Gingrich, not once but twice said that Gingrich had spent 40 years in Washington during a 10-minute appearance on “Fox and Friends.”
Four decades? We were immediately skeptical of this figure.
Gingrich, who rose to become speaker of the House of Representatives, was first elected to Congress in 1978. Subtracting that from 2011, you end up with 33.
“And there's no question, but that people are going to take snippets and take things out of context and try and show that there are differences.”
— Former governor Mitt Romney on Fox News, Nov. 29, 2011
Mitt Romney has a flip-flop problem. Slowly but surely, the conventional wisdom is solidifying that the former Massachusetts governor often has changed his position to suit the politics of the moment. The story line has been advanced by his opponents, in both parties, but also in the media. Take a look at this wicked cartoon by our colleague Tom Toles, in which Romney tells an elephant dressed as Santa Claus: “What would you like me to ask for?”
Of course, politicians have every right to change their minds. An inflexible attitude is not always the sign of an effective leader. But too many flips without enough explanation may give voters pause. In Romney’s case, many of his moves have been from the left — when he was governor of Massachusetts — to the right, as he has run for the Republican presidential nomination.
Now the Democratic National Committee has assembled some of its best evidence of Romney-as-flip-flopper in a four-minute video ad. The DNC helpfully provided a detailed explanation of where each clip came from (see below), and we have picked through them to see whether the flip-flop charge holds up. We give a Pinocchio rating to each claim, in the order in which it is made in the commercial.
“Can you believe that? That’s what our president thinks is wrong with America? That Americans are lazy? That’s pathetic. It’s time to clean house in Washington.”
— Texas Gov. Rick Perry, in a new television ad attacking President Obama
“Sometimes, I just don’t think that President Obama understands America. I say that because this week — or was it last week? — he said that Americans are lazy. I don’t think that describes America. Before that, I think it was in October, he was saying we have lost our inventiveness, and our ambition. Before that he was saying other disparaging things about Americans. I just don’t think he understands — he was saying we just weren’t working hard enough. I don’t think he gets what’s happening in this country.”
— Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, Nov. 15, 2011
Republican president candidates have begun attacking President Obama for supposedly insulting Americans by calling them “lazy.” Perry has even framed a new television ad around the idea.
Since we once gave a Pinocchio to Obama for what we called unsubstantiated boosterism — “We have the most productive workers, the finest universities and the freest markets” — we were a little surprised to learn that he had suddenly turned so anti-American.
What’s going on here?
When a president makes a similar offhand comment at least two times, our experience tells us that something is on his mind. Maybe he read a book, perhaps there was a briefing, perhaps he even saw a television documentary. A clear sign that this notion has begun to sink in is that he begins to muse about it in public.
Reporter Josh Hicks compiled the following look at Mitt Romney’s claims about his life and career. Click on the headlines to read the complete report.
Romney receives one Pinocchio for his claims about taxes and spending during his tenure.
Romney earns three Pinocchios for suggesting he reduced the cost of uncompensated care as part of his health plan.
Romney says he created more jobs than were lost. The picture is mixed and at this point we cannot reach a definitive conclusion.
Overall, Romney earns a rare Geppetto Checkmark
He gets one Pinocchio for misleading people about his turnaround claims.