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News & Politics News & Politics

Whoops: PolitiFact's 'Lie of the Year' Turns Out to Be True

Posted by on Jan. 19, 2013 at 9:10 AM
  • 15 Replies

12:25 PM, JAN 18, 2013 • BY MARK HEMINGWAY

Note: Some additional detail on my earlier post for those who had questions about it based on Politifact's statements, as well as the actual situation.

Last month, PolitiFact selected its "Lie of the Year." Given PolitiFact's dubious record of singling out Republicans for lying far more often than Democrats, you probably could have guessed the winner of this particular sweepstakes was a Mitt Romney campaign ad:

It was a lie told in the critical state of Ohio in the final days of a close campaign -- that Jeep was moving its U.S. production to China. It originated with a conservative blogger, who twisted an accurate news story into a falsehood. Then it picked up steam when the Drudge Report ran with it. Even though Jeep's parent company gave a quick and clear denial, Mitt Romney repeated it and his campaign turned it into a TV ad.

And they stood by the claim, even as the media and the public expressed collective outrage against something so obviously false.

"Public expressed collective outrage"? That's essentially wishcasting on the part of PolitiFact, nor are they accurately representing what Mitt Romney said in the ad. In fact, here's PolitiFact's original "fact check" on the matter:

[Mitt Romney] Says Barack Obama "sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China" at the cost of American jobs.

Ok. Now here's what the Reuters reported earlier this week:

Fiat (FIA.MI) and its U.S. unit Chrysler expect to roll out at least 100,000 Jeeps in China when production starts in 2014 as they seek to catch up with rivals in the world's biggest car market. ...

"We expect production of around 100,000 Jeeps per year which is expandable to 200,000," [Chrysler CEO Sergio] Marchionne, who is also CEO of Chrysler, said on the sidelines of a conference, adding production could start in 18 months.

So, yes, it's confirmed that Jeep will be producing cars in China. According to the Toledo Blade last November:

Currently, Jeeps sell in more than 120 countries around the world, including China. They're nearly all built in factories in the United States.

By expanding Jeep production to China, instead of increasing Jeep production in the U.S., it's safe to say Jeep (or more properly, Fiat, which now owns Chrysler) is choosing to create more jobs overseas instead of in America where taxpayers bailed the company out.

Now one could argue—and I suspect many pro-free trade, pro-globalization conservatives would make this argument—that expanding production overseas is good for Jeep, and what's good for Jeep in the long-run is ultimately good for the jobs they sustain in the U.S. job market. And if you dig deep into the PolitiFact ruling, that's their essential objection to Mitt Romney's ad: It implies that it would be better for Jeep to create more jobs in the U.S. in the short-term, instead of expanding overseas production. So in the end, PolitiFact's beef with the Romney ad was an entirely argumentative disagreement about what course of action Jeep should take, not a factual objection to Romney's true statement that Jeep was going to start building cars in China. However, disagreeing about the implications of manufacturing Jeeps in China doesn't justify calling Romney a liar for accurately stating Jeeps would be manufactured in China. PolitiFact didn't even dispute that, and even conceded the "Lie of the Year" was built on a "grain of truth." Rather, PolitiFact explicitly argued producing Jeeps in China is a good thing:

The production of cars in China is a sign of Chrysler's growing strength in overseas markets. It would like to build Jeeps in China to sell in China. It is not outsourcing American auto jobs.

Further, PolitiFact criticized the Romney ad for something it didn't say. Romney's ad never said Jeep was "outsourcing" existing jobs. Again, a fair reading of the ad would be that it implied that Jeep was choosing to create new jobs overseas rather than in the U.S. And if we're going to get technical, what PolitiFact reported about Jeep wasn't accurate. Here's PolitiFact quoting a Chrysler spokesman in their "Lie of the Year" ruling:

"Let’s set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China," Ranieri wrote, adding, "A careful and unbiased reading of the Bloomberg take would have saved unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments."

But that turns out not to be entirely true! As the Detroit News reported earlier this week:

[Chrysler CEO Sergio] Marchionne said he will keep "the pillar cars of the Jeep (brand) in the United States. Wrangler is one. The Grand Cherokee is another. These are things that need to be protected because they represent the best and the essence of Jeep. If you tell me I cannot make a Patriot somewhere else, I might as well go out of the market."

To recap, Jeep Patriots—oh irony, you capricious sprite!—that were heretofore exclusively produced in America and sold overseas are now going to be made and sold overseas. So there is one Jeep model that is in fact shifting production "out of North America to China," contrary to what Jeep's spokesman asserted at the time.

On that note, we all know that "fact checking" is kabuki journalism, but would it have killed PolitiFact to act like real reporters for five seconds and express some richly deserved skepticism about Jeep's carefully worded denials about producing cars in China? It was obvious that since the company had received a taxpayer bailout largely engineered by an incumbent president up for reelection, that it was not in Jeep's interest to upset the Obama campaign applecart. Michael Dorstewitz at BizPac Reviewpoints out that Jeep was pretty clearly engaged in obfuscation:

When the controversy first erupted, Italian-born Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne was unequivocal in denying that Jeep had plans to move any of its operations to China. That was on Oct. 30, one week before the presidential election.

“I feel obliged to unambiguously restate our position: Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China,” he wrote in a letter to employees, according to NBC News. “Jeep assembly lines will remain in operation in the United States and will constitute the backbone of the brand. … It is inaccurate to suggest anything different.”

However, Marchione dodged the issue. The Romney ad never said that the Jeep brand was going to move to China — it only said that Chrysler was going to build Jeeps in China.

Nonetheless, PolitiFact dubbed the Romney ad the “Lie of the Year” and described it as “a lie told in the critical state of Ohio in the final days of a close campaign.”

Now I'd be confounded by PolitiFact's total inability to handle basic empirical matters if their motivation wasn't so transparent. Their "Lie of the Year" write-up reads like a gleeful vindication of the Obama campaign. No really, they use the word "gleeful":

If the Jeep ad was intended to confound the Obama campaign, the reaction was the opposite: gleeful outrage.

Obama’s campaign fired back with its own ad, which crowed that "Chrysler itself has refuted Romney's lie. The truth? Jeep is adding jobs in Ohio." Surrogates on the campaign trail, notably former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden, mocked the ad as audiences roared with laughter.

For the Obama camp, it was a twofer: They got to remind voters in Ohio and all over the country that Romney had opposed the auto bailouts and also portray him as desperate.

Obama himself brought it up in a campaign appearance in Cincinnati the Sunday before the election, casting it as a character issue.

"And so when you’re thinking about this choice, or you’re talking to your friends and neighbors about this choice, you’ve got to remind them it’s not just about policy, it’s also about trust. Who do you trust?"

If we're really going to be scrupulous about who we trust, the fact that the "Lie of the Year" is nothing more than sophistry aimed at tearing down a Republican presidential candidate says volumes about PolitiFact's credibility.

UPDATE: Several people have written in to object on the grounds that when the Romney campaign first started making the accusation against Jeep, Mitt Romney said the following in a stump speech, which does muddy the waters a bit:

I saw a story today that one of the great manufacturers in this state Jeep -- now owned by the Italians -- is thinking of moving all production to China. I will fight for every good job in America.

Emphasis added. Obviously, when it's framed that way it's not true. However, remove the word "all" from Romney's comment and it's perfectly unobjectionable. In fact, after Romney said this, his campaign, while reticent to directly concede that Romney's statement was erroneous, clarified the point they were trying to make:

The campaign did not respond to those questions but insisted that "the larger point that the Gov. made is that rather than creating jobs here, the foreign owner, handpicked by President Obama, is planning to add jobs overseas - which is still true." Romney did not mention the report at a campaign event in Ames, Iowa this afternoon.

In fact, that's exactly the argument that I point out PolitiFact ignored. Further, PolitiFact's "Lie of the Year" is not that Romney lied in his stump speech. PolitiFact knows it's thin gruel to hang their accusation on a single word in a Romney speech. Which is why their headline is "Lie of the Year: the Romney campaign's ad on Jeeps made in China," and that's why I confined my critique to the ad. The ad aired after Romney was called out for his misleading comment and the ad itself is much more carefully worded.

But if we're going to insist that a single stump speech comment is damnable assessment of one's motivations, then here's my nomination for "Lie of the Year":

“Sometimes they just make things up. But they’ve got a bunch of folks who can write $10 million checks, and they’ll just keep on running them,” he said. “I mean, somebody was challenging one of their ads — they made it up — about work and welfare. And every outlet said this is just not true. And they were asked about it and they said — one of their campaign people said, ‘We won’t have the fact-checkers dictate our campaign. We will not let the truth get in the way.’”

Mr. Obama was referring, as many other critics of the Romney campaign have, to a comment that its pollster, Neil Newhouse, made to reporters at the Republican convention on Tuesday, dismissive of those faulting the campaign’s television ads. What Mr. Newhouse actually said was, “These fact-checkers come to those ads with their own sets of thoughts and beliefs. We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”

Mr. Newhouse did not say, “We will not let the truth get in the way.”

Again, emphasis added. So when a Romney campaign aide quite accurately noted that fact checkers bring "their own sets of thoughts and beliefs" to their critiques, Obama defended fact checkers by lying about what the Romney campaign said in the process of accusing them of lying. Strangely enough, PolitiFact did not bother objecting to the president's dishonesty here.

by on Jan. 19, 2013 at 9:10 AM
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Replies (1-10):
imamomzilla
by on Jan. 19, 2013 at 9:36 AM
2 moms liked this

 Interesting.

"To recap, Jeep Patriots—oh irony, you capricious sprite!—that were heretofore exclusively produced in America and sold overseas are now going to be made and sold overseas. So there is one Jeep model that is in fact shifting production "out of North America to China," contrary to what Jeep's spokesman asserted at the time."

We all know the MSM are not doing their jobs. Such a pity that no one is looking out for us. ugh.

mom2twinboyz
by Bronze Member on Jan. 19, 2013 at 9:45 AM
2 moms liked this
I don't know why this surprises anyone. Like CEO's are really going to tell the truth.
Ednarooni160
by Eds on Jan. 19, 2013 at 10:18 AM

Thanks for the update..  Those Bailouts......."ugh".

DSamuels
by Gold Member on Jan. 19, 2013 at 10:26 AM
1 mom liked this

Waiting for the people on here who called Romney, and those of us who agreed with him, to admit they were wrong.

Oh wait, that won't happen! 

blues_pagan
by on Jan. 19, 2013 at 11:39 AM
4 moms liked this

I guess you missed the article that showed that the only reason Jeep is starting production in China is due to the global market regulations.  They are not stopping production here in the US, the Jeeps that are sold here will still be produced here.  The Jeeps sold in China will be produced in China.  Due to pricing differences this happens in many different places.  I know, I tried to buy a Harley overseas when I was in Germany, wow that would have been a hassle.

blues_pagan
by on Jan. 19, 2013 at 11:39 AM

And I don't fault them for wanting to go global.  

stacymomof2
by Bronze Member on Jan. 19, 2013 at 12:41 PM
2 moms liked this

Seriously this again?  First of all, Politifact was correct in saying that Romney said "shift all production of Jeep overseas."  Second of all, the Jeeps they were originally selling in China were being made in China previously, according to this, the original source for Romney's statements:

Fiat is in “very detailed conversations” with its Chinese partner, Guangzhou Automobile Group Co. (2238), about making Jeeps in the world’s largest auto market, said Mike Manley, chief operating officer of Fiat and Chrysler in Asia. Chrysler hasn’t built Jeeps there since before Fiat took control in 2009. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-10-21/fiat-says-china-may-build-all-jeep-models-as-suv-demand-climbs.html

They are talking about returning prodcution of Jeeps sold in China to China, to take advantage of a potential market there.

And here is what Chrysler had to say about it:

There are times when the reading of a newswire report generates storms originated by a biased or predisposed approach.

On Oct. 22, 2012, at 11:10 a.m. ET, the Bloomberg News report “Fiat Says Jeep® Output May Return to China as Demand Rises” stated “Chrysler currently builds all Jeep SUV models at plants in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio. Manley (President and CEO of the Jeep brand) referred to adding Jeep production sites rather than shifting output from North America to China.”

Despite clear and accurate reporting, the take has given birth to a number of stories making readers believe that Chrysler plans to shift all Jeep production to China from North America, and therefore idle assembly lines and U.S. workforce. It is a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats.

Let’s set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China. It’s simply reviewing the opportunities to return Jeep output to China for the world’s largest auto market. U.S. Jeep assembly lines will continue to stay in operation. A careful and unbiased reading of the Bloomberg take would have saved unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments. http://blog.chryslerllc.com/blog.do?id=1932&p=entry

Any other bullshit wording is a lie and ridiculous.  Also Romney already lost, so what's the point of trying to cover his ass now?

You may disagree that Romney's statement is "the lie of the year."  However to act like Politifact got it wrong is just blatant disregard of actual facts.  When people deny facts, they are the ones who are biased.  Not the people presenting facts.

blues_pagan
by on Jan. 19, 2013 at 12:45 PM

Don't let them get to you.  They know no other way.

Quoting stacymomof2:

Seriously this again?  First of all, Politifact was correct in saying that Romney said "shift all production of Jeep overseas."  Second of all, the Jeeps they were originally selling in China were being made in China previously, according to this, the original source for Romney's statements:

Fiat is in “very detailed conversations” with its Chinese partner, Guangzhou Automobile Group Co. (2238), about making Jeeps in the world’s largest auto market, said Mike Manley, chief operating officer of Fiat and Chrysler in Asia. Chrysler hasn’t built Jeeps there since before Fiat took control in 2009. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-10-21/fiat-says-china-may-build-all-jeep-models-as-suv-demand-climbs.html

They are talking about returning prodcution of Jeeps sold in China to China, to take advantage of a potential market there.

And here is what Chrysler had to say about it:

There are times when the reading of a newswire report generates storms originated by a biased or predisposed approach.

On Oct. 22, 2012, at 11:10 a.m. ET, the Bloomberg News report “Fiat Says Jeep® Output May Return to China as Demand Rises” stated “Chrysler currently builds all Jeep SUV models at plants in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio. Manley (President and CEO of the Jeep brand) referred to adding Jeep production sites rather than shifting output from North America to China.”

Despite clear and accurate reporting, the take has given birth to a number of stories making readers believe that Chrysler plans to shift all Jeep production to China from North America, and therefore idle assembly lines and U.S. workforce. It is a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats.

Let’s set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China. It’s simply reviewing the opportunities to return Jeep output to China for the world’s largest auto market. U.S. Jeep assembly lines will continue to stay in operation. A careful and unbiased reading of the Bloomberg take would have saved unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments. http://blog.chryslerllc.com/blog.do?id=1932&p=entry

Any other bullshit wording is a lie and ridiculous.  Also Romney already lost, so what's the point of trying to cover his ass now?

You may disagree that Romney's statement is "the lie of the year."  However to act like Politifact got it wrong is just blatant disregard of actual facts.  When people deny facts, they are the ones who are biased.  Not the people presenting facts.


stacymomof2
by Bronze Member on Jan. 19, 2013 at 12:52 PM

That statement is a lie.  They are re-activating plants in China to sell more Jeeps in China.  This article is just straight up misstating the actual facts.

Now if people want to say that Fiat is lying, and that they will eventually move all Jeep manufacturing to China, that is one thing. But saying that they are doing so, and saying that as a matter of fact THEY are saying that they are doing so, well, it's just not true.

Quoting imamomzilla:

 Interesting.

"To recap, Jeep Patriots—oh irony, you capricious sprite!—that were heretofore exclusively produced in America and sold overseas are now going to be made and sold overseas. So there is one Jeep model that is in fact shifting production "out of North America to China," contrary to what Jeep's spokesman asserted at the time."

We all know the MSM are not doing their jobs. Such a pity that no one is looking out for us. ugh.


stacymomof2
by Bronze Member on Jan. 19, 2013 at 12:55 PM

Well really, why do they keep re-stating the same false argument as though they are saying something new this time around.  The facts are there, and not changing, no matter how many times they make this argument.

Quoting blues_pagan:

Don't let them get to you.  They know no other way.

Quoting stacymomof2:

Seriously this again?  First of all, Politifact was correct in saying that Romney said "shift all production of Jeep overseas."  Second of all, the Jeeps they were originally selling in China were being made in China previously, according to this, the original source for Romney's statements:

Fiat is in “very detailed conversations” with its Chinese partner, Guangzhou Automobile Group Co. (2238), about making Jeeps in the world’s largest auto market, said Mike Manley, chief operating officer of Fiat and Chrysler in Asia. Chrysler hasn’t built Jeeps there since before Fiat took control in 2009. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-10-21/fiat-says-china-may-build-all-jeep-models-as-suv-demand-climbs.html

They are talking about returning prodcution of Jeeps sold in China to China, to take advantage of a potential market there.

And here is what Chrysler had to say about it:

There are times when the reading of a newswire report generates storms originated by a biased or predisposed approach.

On Oct. 22, 2012, at 11:10 a.m. ET, the Bloomberg News report “Fiat Says Jeep® Output May Return to China as Demand Rises” stated “Chrysler currently builds all Jeep SUV models at plants in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio. Manley (President and CEO of the Jeep brand) referred to adding Jeep production sites rather than shifting output from North America to China.”

Despite clear and accurate reporting, the take has given birth to a number of stories making readers believe that Chrysler plans to shift all Jeep production to China from North America, and therefore idle assembly lines and U.S. workforce. It is a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats.

Let’s set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China. It’s simply reviewing the opportunities to return Jeep output to China for the world’s largest auto market. U.S. Jeep assembly lines will continue to stay in operation. A careful and unbiased reading of the Bloomberg take would have saved unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments. http://blog.chryslerllc.com/blog.do?id=1932&p=entry

Any other bullshit wording is a lie and ridiculous.  Also Romney already lost, so what's the point of trying to cover his ass now?

You may disagree that Romney's statement is "the lie of the year."  However to act like Politifact got it wrong is just blatant disregard of actual facts.  When people deny facts, they are the ones who are biased.  Not the people presenting facts.



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