The Washington Post

Romney campaign: Obama camp should heed fact checkers, but we don’t have to

Get this: The Romney campaign’s position is now that the Obama camp should pull its ads when fact checkers call them out as false — but that Romney and his advisers should feel no such constraint.

This is not an exaggeration. This is really the Romney campaign’s position.

As Buzzfeed reports this morning, top Romney advisers say their most effective ads are the ones attacking Obama over welfare, and that they will not allow their widespread denunciation by fact checkers as false slow down their campaign one little bit:

“Our most effective ad is our welfare ad,” a top television advertising strategist for Romney, Ashley O’Connor, said at a forum Tuesday hosted by ABCNews and Yahoo! News. “It’s new information.”...

The Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” awarded Romney’s ad “four Pinocchios,” a measure Romney pollster Neil Newhouse dismissed.

“Fact checkers come to this with their own sets of thoughts and beliefs, and we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers,” he said.

That’s a very interesting admission. But it gets better. Reading this brought to mind Romney’s own remarks about fact-checking and political advertising not long ago. Needless to say, he has a different standard for the Obama campaign:

“You know, in the past, when people pointed out that something was inaccurate, why, campaigns pulled the ad,” Romney said on the radio. “They were embarrassed. Today, they just blast ahead. You know, the various fact checkers look at some of these charges in the Obama ads and they say that they’re wrong, and inaccurate, and yet he just keeps on running them.”

The upshot is that Romney doesn’t have an intellectual objection to fact checking’s limitations in a general sense, at least when it’s applied to the Obama campaign. In that case, fact checking is a legitmate exercise Obama should heed. But at the same time, the Romney campaign explicitly says it doesn’t see it as legitimate or constraining when it’s applied to him.

By the way, this isn’t the first time the Romney camp has insisted that it is not beholden to the standards it expects the Obama campaign to follow. For the better part of a year, Romney has hammered Obama over the “net” jobs lost on his watch, to paint him as a job destroyer, a metric that factors the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of jobs lost at the start of Obama’s term, before his policies took effect. Yet Romney advisers have argued, with no apparent sense of irony, that his own record should not be judged by one net jobs number.

In this sense, the Romney campaign continues to pose a test to the news media and our political system. What happens when one campaign has decided there is literally no set of boundaries that it needs to follow when it comes to the veracity of its assertions? The Romney campaign is betting that the press simply won’t be able to keep voters informed about the disputes that are central to the campaign, in the face of the sheer scope and volume of dishonesty it uncorks daily.

Paul Krugman’s question continues to remain relevant: “Has there ever been a candidacy this cynical?”

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.


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