Whoops: PolitiFact’s ‘Lie of the Year’ Turns Out to Be True
12:25 PM, JAN 18, 2013 • BY MARK HEMINGWAY
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.