Will Media Fact Checkers Rise To The Romney Debate Challenge?

››› ››› TODD GREGORY, MIKE BURNS & DAVID SHERE

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney rehashed at least 11 previously debunked claims during the second presidential debate that ranged from the economy to gun rights. This continued dishonesty, coming on the heels of a campaign official saying they would not be "dictated to by fact checkers," presents a challenge to the media.

Romney Campaign Dismissed Fact Checkers

Romney Surrogate: "We're Not Going [To] Let Our Campaign Be Dictated By Fact-Checkers." During an ABC News/Yahoo! News event at the Republican National Convention, Romney pollster Neil Newhouse suggested fact-checkers were biased and stated: "We're not going [to] let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers." From ABCNews.com:

O'Connor said she thought their ad "Right Choice" attacking Obama on welfare reform has been the most effective so far, despite its being given "Four Pinnochios" by a Washington Post fact check.

Newhouse brushed off the fact check as par for the course in political campaigns.

"People are always going to get Pinocchios for this stuff," Newhouse said. "We stand behind those ads and behind the facts in those ads."

Newhouse suggested the problem was with the fact-checkers, not the facts themselves: "Fact-checkers come to this with their own sets of thoughts and beliefs and you know what? We're not going let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers." [ABCNews.com, 8/28/12]

At Least 11 Romney Debate Lies For Journalists To Highlight

ROMNEY LIE: Tax Plan Will Create 12 Million Jobs

Romney: "I Put Out A Five-Point Plan That Gets America 12 Million New Jobs In Four Years." During the October 16 debate, Romney said his tax plan will create 12 million new jobs in four years:

ROMNEY: We have not made the progress we need to make to put people back to work. That's why I put out a five-point plan that gets America 12 million new jobs in four years and rising take-home pay. It's going to help Jeremy get a job when he comes out of school. It's going to help people across the country that are unemployed right now. [ABC News, 10/16/12]

Wash. Post Fact Checker: Math Underlying Romney's Claim "Doesn't Add Up." Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler wrote that the math underlying Romney's claim "doesn't add up," calling it a "bait-and-switch" that fudges with timelines, and quoted Glenn Hubbard, one of Romney's chief economic advisers, acknowledging as much. [The Washington Post, 10/16/12]

ROMNEY LIE: Oil Production Is Down On Federal Lands Under Obama

Romney Said Oil Production Is Down On Federal Lands Under Obama Administration. During the presidential debate, Romney said oil production is down on federal lands under Obama:

ROMNEY: Well, let's look at the president's policies, all right, as opposed to the rhetoric, because we've had four years of policies being played out. And the president's right in terms of the additional oil production, but none of it came on federal land. As a matter of fact, oil production is down 14 percent this year on federal land, and gas production was down 9 percent. Why? Because the president cut in half the number of licenses and permits for drilling on federal lands, and in federal waters. [ABC News, 10/16/12]

So Far, Production On Federal Lands Is Slightly Higher In Obama Years Than Bush Years. The Columbia Journalism Review reported:

The data in the report, which go back to 2003, show that there was indeed a large decline in oil production on federal lands and waters in 2011. But that observation belies the fact that federal lands and waters were exceptionally productive during 2010, outstripping any year's productivity during the Bush administration. Indeed, the average productivity on federal land and waters during the four Bush years, 2003-2008, was 634 million barrels per year. During the three Obama years, 2009-2011, it was 676 million barrels. During the Bush years, federal lands produced roughly 33 percent of the national output on average. During the Obama years, they produced roughly 34 percent. [Columbia Journalism Review3/22/12]

Energy Information Administration: U.S. "Oil Production Has Increased Over The Past Few Years, Reversing A Decline That Began In 1986." From the 2012 Annual Energy Outlook by the Energy Information Administration:

Domestic crude oil production has increased over the past few years, reversing a decline that began in 1986. U.S. crude oil production increased from 5.1 million barrels per day in 2007 to 5.5 million barrels per day in 2010. [Energy Information Administration, 1/23/12]

PolitiFact: Oil Production Is Highest In Eight Years. From a January 24 PolitiFact article:

Here are the annual totals, in barrels produced, going back to 2003:

2003: 2,073,453,000
2004: 1,983,302,000
2005: 1,890,106,000
2006: 1,862,259,000
2007: 1,848,450,000
2008: 1,811,817,000
2009: 1,956,596,000
2010: 1,998,137,000

The full-year data is available only through 2010, but 10 months of data from 2011 have been made public. Through the end of October 2011, production totaled 1,713,038,000 barrels. If that pace continues, the year-end total should be around 2,055,646,000 barrels -- higher than any year since 2003. That's eight years ago, just as Obama said. [PolitiFact, 1/24/12]

ROMNEY LIE: He Wants To Increase Pell Grants

Romney: "I Want To Make Sure We Keep Our Pell Grant Program Growing." During the presidential debate, Romney said he wants to "make sure we keep our Pell grant program growing":

ROMNEY: I want to make sure we keep our Pell grant program growing. We're also going to have our loan program, so that people are able to afford school. But the key thing is to make sure you can get a job when you get out of school. And what's happened over the last four years has been very, very hard for America's young people. I want you to be able to get a job. [ABC, 10/16/12]

Romney's Position Paper On Education: Romney Would "Refocus Pell Grant Dollars On The Students That Need Them Most." According to Romney's position paper on education, Romney would "refocus Pell Grant dollars on the students that need them most." [A Chance for Every Child: Mitt Romney's Plan for Restoring the Promise of American Education, 5/23/12]

Romney Running Mate Paul Ryan: Pell Grant Program Is "Unsustainable." During an October 2011 town hall, Romney's running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan, said that the Pell Grant program is "unsustainable." [ThinkProgress, 10/20/11]

ROMNEY LIE: He Advocated For Same Auto Bankruptcy Obama Used

Romney: When Obama Said "That I Wanted To Take The Auto Industry Bankrupt, You Actually Did." From the debate:

ROMNEY: And one thing that the president said, which I want to make sure that we understand, he said that I said we should take Detroit bankrupt. And that's right. My plan was to have the company go through bankruptcy like 7-Eleven did and Macy's and Condell (ph) Airlines and come out stronger.

And I know he keeps saying, you want to take Detroit bankrupt. Well, the president took Detroit bankrupt. You took General Motors bankrupt. You took Chrysler bankrupt. So when you say that I wanted to take the auto industry bankrupt, you actually did.

And I think it's important to know that that was a process that was necessary to get those companies back on their feet, so they could start hiring more people. That was precisely what I recommended and ultimately what happened. [ABC News, 10/16/12]

Romney Advocated For A "Post-Bankruptcy Financing" For The Auto Companies. In a November 2008 op-ed, Mitt Romney advocated for "post-bankruptcy financing" for the auto-companies." From Romney's op-ed:

The American auto industry is vital to our national interest as an employer and as a hub for manufacturing. A managed bankruptcy may be the only path to the fundamental restructuring the industry needs. It would permit the companies to shed excess labor, pension and real estate costs. The federal government should provide guarantees for post-bankruptcy financing and assure car buyers that their warranties are not at risk.

In a managed bankruptcy, the federal government would propel newly competitive and viable automakers, rather than seal their fate with a bailout check. [The New York Times, 11/18/12]

Automotive Economist: "Private Bankruptcy For Automakers Would Not Have Been Possible ... Because Credit Markets Were Frozen." Reuters reported that supporters of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney "point out that airlines and other large businesses have been able to reorganize in bankruptcy without government help." Reuters continued:

"There were two ways to do it - either use crony capitalism, where government picks the winners and losers, or you go through the traditional reorganization process," said Saul Anuzis, a Romney supporter and former head of the Michigan Republican Party.

Sean McAlinden, chief economist at the Center for Automotive Research, or CAR, said there was one problem with that argument: a private bankruptcy for automakers would not have been possible during the 2008-2009 financial crisis because credit markets were frozen and GM and Chrysler were unable to get private financing to keep operating through bankruptcy.

Without federal help, the companies could have been forced to shut down, which would have devastated parts suppliers and threatened solvent carmakers such as Ford and Toyota, McAlinden said.

The intervention saved 1.3 million jobs in 2009, CAR estimates.

"It was the most successful peacetime industrial intervention in U.S. history," McAlinden said. [Reuters, 2/10/12]

The Economist: "The Credit Markets Were Bone-Dry, Making The Privately Financed Bankruptcy ... Improbable." Robert McShane, The Economist online U.S. editor, wrote:

Following the bail-outs, the president eventually forced Chrysler and GM into bankruptcy, a step Mr Romney thought should occur naturally. And the government oversaw painful restructurings at both companies, which were largely in line with Mr Romney's broad suggestions. But the course Mr Romney recommended in 2008 began with the government stepping back, and it is unlikely things would've turned out so well had this happened.

Free-marketeers that we are, The Economist agreed with Mr Romney at the time. But we later apologised for that position. "Had the government not stepped in, GM might have restructured under normal bankruptcy procedures, without putting public money at risk", we said. But "given the panic that gripped private purse-strings...it is more likely that GM would have been liquidated, sending a cascade of destruction through the supply chain on which its rivals, too, depended." Even Ford, which avoided bankruptcy, feared the industry would collapse if GM went down. At the time that seemed like a real possibility. The credit markets were bone-dry, making the privately financed bankruptcy that Mr Romney favoured improbable. He conveniently ignores this bit of history in claiming to have been right all along. [The Economist2/14/12]

ROMNEY LIE: Obama To Blame For High Gas Prices 

Romney: "If The President's Energy Policies Are Working, You're Going To See The Cost Of Energy Come Down." From the debate:

ROMNEY: I will fight for oil, coal and natural gas. And the proof, the proof of whether a strategy is working or not is what the price is that you're paying at the pump. If you're paying less than you paid a year or two ago, why, then, the strategy is working. But you're paying more. When the president took office, the price of gasoline here in Nassau County was about $1.86 a gallon. Now, it's $4.00 a gallon. The price of electricity is up.

If the president's energy policies are working, you're going to see the cost of energy come down. I will fight to create more energy in this country, to get America energy secure. [ABC News, 10/16/12]

PolitiFact: Claim That Obama Is Responsible For Higher Gas Prices Is "Mostly False." From PolitiFact:

But experts say the president and his policies have little effect on the prices. Demand is skyrocketing in China, and that pushes up prices. There's been ongoing turmoil in the Mideast. And locally, there have been supply disruptions that have all pushed prices higher. None of these were tied to Obama's policies.

The blanket claim that Obama is responsible for gas prices doubling gets one part correct: the unusually low price at the start of his administration. The broader claim that Obama is to blame is off base. The statement contains some elements of truth but leaves out critical facts that would give a different impression. That's our definition for Mostly False. [PolitiFact, 8/24/12]

ROMNEY LIE: Obama Will Raise Taxes On Middle Class By $4,000

Romney: Obama Would Raise Taxes On Middle-Income Americans By $4,000. During the debate, Romney said that Obama would raise taxes on the middle class by $4,000:

ROMNEY: And I will not -- I will not under any circumstances, reduce the share that's being paid by the highest income taxpayers. And I will not, under any circumstances increase taxes on the middle-class. The president's spending, the president's borrowing will cost this nation to have to raise taxes on the American people. Not just at the high end. A recent study has shown the people in the middle-class will see $4,000.00 per year in higher taxes as a result of the spending and borrowing of this administration. [ABC News, 10/16/12]

FactCheck.Org: Romney's Claim That Obama Will Raise Taxes On Middle Class By $4,000 Is "Nonsense." FactCheck.org has dismissed Romney's $4,000 tax claim as "nonsense," writing:

Mitt Romney falsely claims in a series of TV ads that President Obama "will raise taxes on the middle class by $4,000." That's nonsense. The ads cite a conservative group's study, but even the group itself doesn't say Obama will raise taxes on middle-income taxpayers. It says his budget could result in a "potentially higher tax burden" over the next 10 years. [FactCheck.org, 10/10/12]

ROMNEY LIE: Gun Rights Group Was Onboard With Assault Weapons Ban

Romney: In MA, "The Pro-Gun Folks And The Anti-Gun Folks Came Together And Put Together A Piece Of Legislation." During the debate, Romney said that in Massachusetts, "pro-gun folks" were onboard with an assault weapons ban:

ROMNEY: Well, Candy, actually, in my state, the pro-gun folks and the anti-gun folks came together and put together a piece of legislation. And it's referred to as an assault weapon ban, but it had, at the signing of the bill, both the pro-gun and the anti-gun people came together, because it provided opportunities for both that both wanted. [ABC News, 10/16/12]

Gun Owners Action League: Romney Administration "Took A Major Shot At Lawful Gun Owners And Showed Their True Colors." A July 1, 2004 press release issued by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, titled, "Romney Signs Off On Permanent Assault Weapons Ban," leaves little doubt that the former Massachusetts governor was involved in restricting access to assault weapons. Indeed, at the bill's signing ceremony Romney stated that the "sole purpose" of assault weapons is "hunting down and killing people." In response to the new law, Massachusetts state gun rights group Gun Owners Action League (GOAL) stated that the Romney administration "took a major shot at lawful gun owners and showed their true colors." [Media Matters, 10/3/12]

ROMNEY LIE: Obama Promised 5.4 Percent Unemployment

Romney: Obama "Said That By Now We'd Have Unemployment At 5.4 Percent." From the October 16 debate:

ROMNEY: I think you know better. I think you know that these last four years haven't been so good as the president just described and that you don't feel like your confident that the next four years are going to be much better either.

I can tell you that if you were to elect President Obama, you know what you're going to get. You're going to get a repeat of the last four years. We just can't afford four more years like the last four years.

He said that by now we'd have unemployment at 5.4 percent. The difference between where it is and 5.4 percent is 9 million Americans without work.

I wasn't the one that said 5.4 percent. This was the president's plan. Didn't get there. [ABC News, 10/16/12]

FactCheck.Org: "Romney Is Referring To A Speculative Report" Based On Models That "Underestimated The Depths Of the Recession." From FactCheck.org:

Romney says Obama "said by now [unemployment] would be down to 5.4 percent." But Romney is referring to a speculative report issued at the beginning of Obama's presidency containing projections -- not promises. Those projections relied on prevailing economic models that quickly proved to have underestimated the depths of the recession at that time. [FactCheck.org, 9/20/12]

For more on the context behind the early economic report, see here.

ROMNEY LIE: Obama Doubled The Deficit

Romney: Obama Has Doubled The Deficit. From the October 16 debate:

ROMNEY: And then we have his own record, which is we have four consecutive years where he said when he was running for office, he would cut the deficit in half. Instead he's doubled it. We've gone from $10 trillion of national debt, to $16 trillion of national debt. [ABC, 10/16/12

NY Times: CBO Says Deficit Has Decreased Under Obama. From The New York Times' fact checking of the debate:

The Congressional Budget Office just announced that the federal budget deficit was about $1.1 trillion in 2012, approximately $200 billion less than the shortfall recorded in 2011. Measured as a share of the economy, as economists prefer, the deficit has declined more significantly -- to 7.0 percent of the economy's total output in 2012 from 10.1 percent in 2009. [The New York Times10/16/12]

ROMNEY LIE: Obama Went On An Apology Tour

Romney: Obama's Middle East Policies "Began With An Apology Tour." From the October 16 debate:

ROMNEY: The president's policies throughout the Middle East began with an apology tour and -- and -- and pursue a strategy of leading from behind, and this strategy is unraveling before our very eyes. [ABC, 10/16/12

Associated Press: "Obama Has Not Apologized For America." In June, the Associated Press rejected a similar claim by Romney that Obama "traveled around the globe to apologize for America." The AP wrote that Romney "criticized the president for issuing apologies to the world that were never made," and added:

ROMNEY: "A few months into office, he traveled around the globe to apologize for America."

THE FACTS: Obama has not apologized for America. What he has done, in travels early in his presidency and since, is to make clear his belief that the U.S. is not beyond reproach. He has told foreigners that the U.S. at times acted "contrary to our traditions and ideals" in its treatment of terrorist suspects, that "America has too often been selective in its promotion of democracy," that the U.S. "certainly shares blame" for international economic turmoil and has sometimes shown arrogance toward allies. Obama, whose criticisms of America's past were typically balanced by praise, was in most cases taking issue with policies or the record of the previous administration, not an unusual approach for a new president -- or a presidential candidate. Romney's actual point seems to be that Obama has been too critical of his country.

But there has been no formal -- or informal -- apology. No saying "sorry" on behalf of America. [Associated Press, 6/3/11]

PolitiFact: "It's A Ridiculous Charge" That Obama Has Apologized For America. PolitiFact twice investigated Romney's claims that Obama "apologized" for America and "traveled around the globe to apologize for America." The website found both statements to be false. [PolitiFact, 3/15/106/3/11]

Wash. Post Fact Checker: "The Apology Tour Never Happened." The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler also debunked the charge that Obama went on an apology tour:

The claim that Obama repeatedly has apologized for the United States is not borne out by the facts, especially if his full quotes are viewed in context.

[...]

Note to GOP speechwriters and campaign ad makers: The apology tour never happened. [The Washington Post, The Fact Checker, 2/22/11]

ROMNEY LIE: Obama Did Not Call Benghazi Attack An Act Of Terror

Romney: It Took Obama "14 days Before He Called The Attack In Benghazi An Act Of Terror." From the October 16 debate:

ROMNEY: I -- I think interesting the president just said something which -- which is that on the day after the attack he went into the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror.

OBAMA: That's what I said.

ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror.

It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you're saying?

OBAMA: Please proceed governor.

ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.

OBAMA: Get the transcript. [ABC, 10/16/12

On September 12, Obama Referred To Benghazi Attack As "Acts Of Terror." During his address to the nation the day after the attack, Obama stated:

OBAMA: No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.  Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America.  We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act.  And make no mistake, justice will be done. [White House, 9/12/12]

On September 13, Obama Vowed "No Act Of Terror Will Go Unpunished." In September 13 remarks in Golden, Colorado, Obama stated of the Benghazi attack: "I want people around the world to hear me: To all those who would do us harm, no act of terror will go unpunished. It will not dim the light of the values that we proudly present to the rest of the world. [White House, 9/13/12]

NY Times' Rosenthal: Obama "Undeniably Used The Word 'Terror.'" In a post on his blog Taking Note, New York Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal wrote:

Whoever coached Mr. Romney on that question did the candidate no favors. Here's what the president said in the Rose Garden: "No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for." A little purple -- and the administration's subsequent line on what happened was confusing -- but he undeniably used the word "terror."

The exchange left voters in the uncomfortable position of assuming that Mr. Romney either believes his own propaganda or doesn't care whether what he says is true, which fits into the narrative that he's willing to twist the truth for political gain. [Taking Note, The New York Times10/16/12]

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