Mitt Romney's remarks at Solyndra were full of falsehoods that went unchecked by many major media outlets. The media also largely failed to point out that as governor of Massachusetts, Romney invested in several companies that subsequently went bankrupt or defaulted on state loans.
Media Perpetuate Falsehoods From Romney Speech
Media Fail To Note That There Is No Evidence Of Wrongdoing In Solyndra Loan
Media Uncritically Forward Romney's Claim That Obama Gave Loans To "Friends." The Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN and Fox News uncritically repeated Romney's claim that Solyndra is an example of "crony capitalism" and Obama "giving [taxpayer money] freely to his friends."[Los Angeles Times, 5/31/12] [Wall Street Journal, 5/31/12] [CNN, Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien, 6/1/12, via Nexis] [CNN, John King USA, 5/31/12, via Nexis] [CNN, The Situation Room, 5/31/12, via Nexis] [Fox News, Special Report, 5/31/12, via Nexis] [FoxNews.com, 6/1/12]
But After Long Investigation, There Is No Evidence Of Wrongdoing. Bloomberg Businessweek's Joshua Green reported:
A White House source passed along some information that gives a sense of just how much time, money, and effort has been spent pursuing this investigation: House Republicans have sent 32 congressional letters, compelled 187,000 pages of administration documents, 72,000 pages of documents from Solyndra investors, 9 committee staff briefings, 5 committee hearings, and a sworn committee interview with the Obama bundler who raised money from people involved in the company. Much (but not all) of the committee's $7 million budget has been devoted to funding this inquisition. And it's turned up no evidence of wrongdoing. [Bloomberg Businessweek, 2/17/12]
Solyndra Investors And Lobbyists Included Republican Supporters. As the Huffington Post reported, one of Solyndra's lobbyists was Bill Weld, a "semi-prominent supporter of Mitt Romney." And Solyndra's second largest investor was Madrone Captial Partners, which is linked to the Walton family, who are major Republican donors. [Huffington Post, 5/31/12] [Media Matters, 9/19/11]
Media Forward Romney's Misrepresentation Of Inspector General's Comments
Media Uncritically Repeat Claim That Inspector General "Concluded That The Administration Had Steered Money To Friends And Family." MSNBC.com, ABCNews.com, and FoxNews.com uncritically repeated Romney's claim that "an independent inspector general looked at this investment and concluded that the administration had steered money to friends and family, to campaign contributors." [MSNBC.com, 5/31/12] [FoxNews.com, 5/31/12] [ABCNews.com, 5/31/12]
Inspector General Did Not "Conclud[e]" Any Such Thing. As TIME's Michael Grunwald noted, the Inspector General's comment was actually about an open investigation, and the Inspector General "hasn't confirmed" that any contracts were "steered to friends and family":
It was a line near the end of Romney's ad that caught my attention: "The Inspector General said contracts were steered to 'friends and family.'" That sounded like news. I've spent two years in stimulus-world, and I had no idea an inspector general had said that. I asked the Romney campaign for documentation, and it produced a Newsweek article asserting that Energy Department inspector general Gregory Friedman "has testified that contracts have been steered to 'friends and family.'"
Except that Newsweek article was an excerpt from the book "Throw Them All Out," written by Peter Schweizer, a right-winger who has served as an adviser to Sarah Palin's PAC, edited one of Andrew Breitbart's websites, and written a slew of books portraying liberals as pond scum. Not exactly a disinterested source. And it turns out that the inspector general never testified that stimulus contracts were steered to friends and family. He said his office was investigating whether stimulus contracts were steered to friends and family. So far, it hasn't confirmed that any were. [TIME, 5/31/12]
CNN's Anderson Cooper: Romney Camp's Charge Is "Not Factually Correct." Anderson Cooper made a similar point in an interview with Newt Gingrich:
ANDERSON COOPER: I want to ask you about a charge in the latest Romney ad in talking about the stimulus. The ad says, and I'm quoting, the inspector general said contracts were steered to friends and family, talking about in the Solyndra deal.
That is not factually correct, though. He actually said his office was investigating whether contracts had been steered to friends and family, and so far there haven't been any confirmed cases at all. And independent investigators have only found evidence that one-one- thousandth of a percent point of stimulus money has been lost to fraud.
Darrell Issa himself has pointed out -- I just want to make sure I have the quote right -- he said: "Is there criminal activity? Perhaps not. Is there political influence and connections? Perhaps not." [CNN, Anderson Cooper 360, 5/31/12, via Nexis]
Rachel Maddow: "I'm Surprised This Is Not A Bigger Story." Rachel Maddow called Romney's charge a "lie," and asked why it is "not a bigger story":
An inspector general did not look into the investment in Solyndra and conclude that the administration had steered money to friends and family. That did not happen. That is a lie.
Michael Greenwald writes at "Time" magazine and he`s been writing a book about the stimulus. He wrote about this turn in the Mitt Romney campaign today. But it hasn`t really been picked up anywhere else. I`m surprised this is not a bigger story.
Even in this nuts day in American politics, don`t you think the candidate telling a big, blatant lie in the middle of the news cycle deserves a little follow up? [MSNBC, The Rachel Maddow Show, 5/31/12, via Nexis]
Media Repeat Romney's "Robots" Distortion
Media Uncritically Forward Claim That Solyndra Had Opulent "Disney" "Robots." The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, ABCNews.com, and Fox News repeated Romney's depiction of Solyndra as a "symbol of gross waste" because "the robots inside actually provide Disney music tunes." [Washington Post, 5/31/12] [Wall Street Journal, 5/31/12] [ABCNews.com, 5/31/12] [Fox News, On The Record, 5/31/12, via Nexis]
In Fact, Solyndra Used A Common Technology To Transport Materials. As PolitiFact reported, the "robots" Romney referred to were "automated guided vehicles" designed to transport materials -- a common technology used since the 1950's to reduce labor costs. Music was played to alert workers that the vehicles were nearby for safety reasons. [Media Matters, 11/29/11]
As Governor, Romney Made Failed Investments
Biotech Firm Shut Down After Receiving A Massachusetts-Backed Loan. Reuters reported in an article titled "As governor, Romney picked winners and losers of his own":
A $2.5 million state loan helped lure Rhode Island biotech firm Spherics Inc across the state line to Massachusetts in 2005. Romney's economic development secretary, Ranch Kimball, touted the move as "a tangible result of the combined and coordinated efforts of the public and private sectors to highlight the benefits of locating in Massachusetts."
The company shut down three years later, laying off all of its employees and defaulting on $1.5 million of the loan, according to MassDevelopment, the state development authority. [Reuters, 5/31/12]
Solar Firm Received $2.5 Million From Massachusetts, Later Went Bankrupt. The Washington Post's Greg Sargent reported that while Evergreen Solar was highlighted in an anti-Obama attack ad, it actually received assistance from the state of Massachusetts during Romney's tenure:
[T]hree weeks into Governor Mitt Romney's term, Evergreen Solar received $2.5 million from the Romney administration for a "major expansion and to cover operating losses as it tried to become profitable," according to a February article in Politico. The investment was part of a broader program in which the Romney administration gave millions in subsidies to multiple other companies, Politico reported.
Evergreen ultimately filed for bankruptcy last year, making this case very similar to Solyndra. [The Washington Post, 5/31/12]
- Evergreen Received No Federal Money. The New York Times reported in January 2011 that "Evergreen has received no federal money." [Media Matters, 8/18/11]
Romney Was Previously A Proponent Of Government Investment In Clean Energy. The Huffington Post reported:
[Romney's] 2008 energy policy platform called for a "dramatic increase" in "federal spending on research, development, and demonstration projects that hold promise for diversifying our energy supply." Among those projects were "bringing clean energy technology to market through commercialization of large-scale renewables." [Huffington Post, 5/31/12]
But Media Overlook Romney's Failed Investments
Major Outlets Largely Failed To Mention Romney's Failed Investments As Governor. Less than a quarter of print and television coverage of Romney's remarks at Solyndra mentioned his failed investments in Massachusetts. Fox News and all six major print outlets did not mention them at all.
METHODOLOGY: Results are based on a search of Nexis, Factiva and internal archives from 5/31/12 through the morning of 6/1/12 for "Solyndra." The search included six major print outlets (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, Washington Post, USA Today, Los Angeles Times) and the major cable (CNN, MSNBC, Fox News) and broadcast (ABC, CBS, NBC) networks.