—The Associated Press, in a July 9, 2014 fact-check story
Unnecessary factoid fails to ring true.
On July 9, 2014 the Associated Press published a fact check story written by Adam Beam and Calvin Woodward. The fact check examined two ads from the campaign between Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes and incumbent Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky). The AP story said the Grimes ad in question was her first attack ad:
Alison Lundergan Grimes, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell’s Democratic opponent, released her first attack ad Tuesday, accusing McConnell of voting to raise a retired coal miner’s Medicare costs by $6,000.
On YouTube, the ad carries the title “Question From Don.”
We decided to spot-check the AP’s claim that “Question From Don” was Grimes’ first attack ad.
Analyzing the Rhetoric
The AP story doesn’t go easy on Grimes. It declares her ad misleading, and it also takes a similar view of McConnell’s ad. Moreover, the detail we’re looking at plays no important part in the story. The needless detail itself helped draw our attention. What was the point of mentioning it? If it was Grimes’ 95th attack ad on McConnell it doesn’t affect whether the ad is true. Calling the ad Grimes’ first attack ad might place Grimes in a more favorable light for those who dislike attack ads. Or it might not. We’re not trying to prove the AP was trying to do Grimes a favor. We’re interested in whether the reporting was accurate.
We went to Grimes YouTube channel and quickly found a video uploaded in late May called “Where’s Mitch McConnell?”
The ad plainly states it was paid for by “Alison for Kentucky” and approved by Alison Lundergan Grimes. The ad paints McConnell as out-of-touch with his home state of Kentucky. The ad appears to qualify as an attack ad, albeit not a broadcast ad.
Back in 2013, another video appeared YouTube, also paid for by “Alison for Kentucky.” The title of this one? “Senator Gridlock’s Shutdown Hurts Kentuckians.” The ad calls McConnell “Senator Gridlock.”
We found a number of attack videos attacking McConnell posted by the Grimes campaign to the Internet, each predating the one the AP claimed was the first attack ad.
The AP website’s version of the story carries the title “FACT CHECK: Grimes releases first negative TV ad.” That title has the edge in terms of accuracy. The ad may have been the first attack ad the Grimes campaign paid to air.
Grimes’ ad attacking McConnell on Medicare isn’t her first attack ad. We found a number of earlier attack ads uploaded to the Internet. The AP’s reporting may mislead its audience about Grimes’ use of negative campaign ads.
“Alison Lundergan Grimes … released her first attack ad Tuesday.”
The ad was apparently was the first attack ad the Grimes campaign aired on television. The campaign has produced a number of Web videos attacking Grimes’ Republican opponent, Mitch McConnell.
Correction July 23, 2014:
In our summary we called Grimes’ “Question from Don” apparently her first ad aired to television. It was apparently Grimes first attack ad aired to television. News source from our source list reported a different and earlier ad was Grimes first television ad. We’ve added the word “attack” to the last sentence of the summary.
Beam, Adam, and Calvin Woodward. “FACT CHECK: Grimes Releases First Negative TV Ad.” The Big Story. Associated Press, 08 July 2014. Web. 18 July 2014.
Beam, Adam, and Calvin Woodward. “FACT CHECK: It’s ‘Mediscare’ Time in Kentucky.” ABC News. ABC News Network, 08 July 2014. Web. 18 July 2014.
Question from Don. YouTube. Alison for Kentucky, 08 July 2014. Web. 18 July 2014.
Senator Gridlock’s Shutdown Hurts Kentuckians. YouTube. Alison for Kentucky, 10 Oct. 2013. Web. 18 July 2014.
Fire. YouTube. Alison for Kentucky, 28 Oct. 2013. Web. 18 July 2014.
Still Waiting. YouTube. Alison for Kentucky, 05 Dec. 2013. Web. 18 July 2014.
Where’s Mitch McConnell? YouTube. Alison for Kentucky, June 2014. Web. 18 July 2014.
The Fight. YouTube. Alison for Kentucky, 02 June 2014. Web. 18 July 2014.
“NEW RADIO AD: ‘Mr. President’” Alison Lundergan Grimes for U.S. Senate, Kentucky. Alison for Kentucky, 04 June 2014. Web. 18 July 2014.
Gerth, Joe. “New Alison Grimes Ad Attacks Mitch McConnell on Medicare.” The Courier-Journal. Courier-Journal, 08 July 2014. Web. 18 July 2014.
Payson-Denney, Wade. “Dueling Ads Launch to Heat up Kentucky Senate Race.” Wsbt.com. Schurz Communications, Inc., 08 July 2014. Web. 18 July 2014.
Youngman, Sam. “Grimes Releases First TV Ad Focusing on McConnell.” Kentucky.com. Lexington Herald-Leader, 08 July 2014. Web. 18 July 2014.
Trygstad, Kyle. “Alison Lundergan Grimes Launches First TV Ad in Kentucky.” Roll Call. CQ-Roll Call, Inc., 08 May 2014. Web. 18 July 2014.