Editor’s note: A different version of this post was originally published on Oct. 31 but was subsequently lost.
The Romney ad about Chrysler building Jeeps in China is apparently the fact check topic of the week.
Here’s the ad:
The ad makes a number of claims. GM lost 15,000 workers. China gained 15,000 workers through GM. And Chrysler would start producing Jeep SUVs in China.
Mainstream fact checkers focused on the last claim and treated it harshly.
The Washington Post Fact Checker, Glenn Kessler:
(T)his is an excellent example of an ad that has a series of statements that individually might be factually defensible, but the overall impression is misleading.
“Factually defensible” elements did not save the claim from receiving Kessler’s worst rating of four “Pinocchios.” He ruled according to the misleading impression.
PolitiFact reasoned along the same lines, stating the ad “strings together facts in a way that presents a wholly inaccurate picture.” PolitiFact also rewarded the claim with its harshest rating, “Pants on Fire.”
Even Annenberg Fact Check got caught up in the wave of impressionism:
Romney was flat wrong when he said in his speech that Chrysler “is thinking of moving all production to China,” and his ad is misleading when it says that Chrysler is “going to build Jeeps in China.”
Though the Annenberg is the fairest treatment owing to its practice of not rating statements with “Pinocchios” or a “Truth-O-Meter” grade, the fact check fails to consider how the Romney ad provides context missing from the Obama campaign’s competing ads, which present Obama as saving the auto companies and the associated jobs.
The facts? Chrysler plans to build Jeep SUVs in China. U.S. plants will not build Jeep SUVs to ship to China.
Former Fox News anchor Britt Hume summed it up well with his comment on Twitter:
Romney Jeep ad is factually accurate. Critics are attacking what they say it implies. Fair enough, but don’t call it fact-checking.
We perhaps disagree with Hume in that we see a role for fact checkers to evaluate claims for misleading impressions. But we emphasize that such evaluations require a label like “news analysis.” Otherwise the fact checkers end up doing some misleading of their own.
Update Nov. 2, 2012
Via the Toledo Blade:
Jeep currently exports U.S.-made vehicles to China, which is Jeep’s largest market outside of North America. Last year, Jeep sold 22,294 vehicles in China. The company is expected to exceed that this year.
If a Chinese Jeep plant takes over production of some or all of the more than 20,000 vehicles Jeeps sells in China then how does this not affect workers in the United States?
Boosted by strong demand for the Grand Cherokee and Compass sport-utility vehicles, Jeep sales in China have more than doubled to 33,463 this year through September.
If Chrysler was a true U.S. company then it would qualify as fishy for Romney to oppose Jeep plants in China. Those plants would produce profits for a U.S. company. But Fiat runs Chrysler and Jeep. Jeep sales in China will probably primarily support the Italian parent company.
Correction 12/16/2012: Corrected ill-constructed sentence. Published version: “”Factually defensible” elements did not save the claim from the Kessler’s worst rating of four “Pinocchios.”" The revised version replaces the second “the” with “receiving.” Our apologies for any resulting confusion.
Update 12/29/2012, 4:30 p.m.: The video embed for the original ad stopped working. Replaced the old embed with a different Romney ad that makes the same claims about producing Jeeps in China. Find the radio version of the ad here.