Apparently some right wing bloggers think they may have found their next big scandal: The White House may have pressured Ford Motor Company to yank a TV ad critical of Obama’s rescue of the auto companies!
That would be quite a story indeed — the latest example of heavy handed White House bullying of the private sector, all in service of its hated auto bailout. Except there’s a small problem: Ford and the White House are both denying the tale, and the original report that is the basis for all the chatter today is not even sourced at all.
The tale got started when a Detroit News columnist reported that Ford had pulled an ad it was airing that featured a Ford customer claiming he decided not to buy a car from Ford’s competitors because they had taken auto-bailout money. “I was going to buy from a manufacturer that’s standing on their own: win, lose, or draw,” the customer says in the ad.
The Detroit News made this allegation: “Ford pulled the ad after individuals inside the White House questioned whether the copy was publicly denigrating the controversial bailout policy.” No source was given for this claim.
Ford was not the recipient of bailout money, but it supported the policy for other companies.
The news exploded on Twitter, with Michelle Malkin labeling the tale “FordAdGate,” and RedState asking ominously: “The White House does not like Ford’s ad. Did it apply pressure to get the ad yanked?”
No, says the White House. “The Detroit News story is not true,” communications director Dan Pfeiffer emails.
Ford happens to agree. The company Tweeted:
we did not pull the ad due to pressure. the ad ran 4 weeks which is what the campaign called for
Odder still: The original Detroit News story doesn’t even allege pressure. Way down in the story an “industry source” is quoted claiming: “There was not any pressure to take down the ad.” The piece then goes on to hint that Ford might have felt some kind of pressure, but doesn’t quote anyone claiming that this was the case.
I’ve got a call in to the Detroit News for further comment, but until actual evidence of anything untoward emerges, Watergate this isn’t.
UPDATE: Ford spokesperson Meghan Keck tells me: “The ad was replaced with another ad, which is our usual practice when an ad runs its course. There was no pressure from the White House or the administration. This is Ford’s decision, and part of our usual practice. This is one ad in a series that features real Ford customers talking in their own words.”
UPDATE II: I just got off the phone with Detroit News managing editor Don Nauss. “We stand by our column,” he told me. “It was based on multiple sources. It’s written by a busines columnist who can draw conclusions based on the reporting that they do.”
The story contains no attribution for the central charge of White House calls to Ford. Asked about this, Nauss declined to comment.
Asked to clarify if the column was alleging any White House pressure on Ford (the story hints at it up top but quotes someone later saying there was no pressure), Nauss declined to say. “The story speaks for itself,” he said.