Pitching to the swing state, Ohio

Having noticed a theme in fact check coverage centering on presidential challenger Mitt Romney’s claims questioning of President Obama’s saving of the auto companies, I planned a commentary article to present my case.

Before I typed the first word, Hans Bader of the Competitive Enterprise Institute largely beat me to it.  Though Bader puts his focus on inconsistent reporting by PolitiFact, he hits on the bigger picture the fact checkers–and especially PolitiFact–are missing or deliberately hiding.

Bader:

 

PolitiFact leaves out Bush, and refers to the bailouts as Obama’s “rescue of the auto industry,” in a flawed recent “fact-check” of a claim that is literally true but arguably misleading (the claim that “Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China”).

 

Bader’s comment above essentially agrees with my blog post/meta fact check on Romney’s claim that Chrysler will manufacture Jeeps in China.  Bader’s opening sentence identifies part of a media narrative that takes partisan sides.  The fact checking media have effectively taken sides in defending Mr. Obama from the Romney campaign’s attack on the president’s claimed rescue of the U.S. auto industry.

It’s true that Jeep presently ships over 20,000 Jeep vehicles per year to China from the U.S.  No mainstream media fact checker points that out when helping the Obama campaign answer Romney’s challenge to its narrative.

FactCheck.org’s account is typical:

 

Here are the facts: Chrysler is considering returning to China because demand for Jeep vehicles is rising in Asia, as reported in an Oct. 22 article by Bloomberg News. The company had produced Jeeps in China for that market before 2009, when the Italian automaker Fiat became the majority owner of Chrysler as part of the U.S. government’s auto bailout.

But this doesn’t mean that Chrysler will be moving any of its U.S. operations to China. In fact, Bloomberg reported: “Chrysler currently builds all Jeep SUV models at plants in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio. Manley referred to adding Jeep production sites rather than shifting output from North America to China.”

 

 

Jeep currently ships over 20,000 made-in-U.SA. Jeep vehicles built to China.  That number falls in the neighborhood of 10 percent of the production capacity at the Toledo plant that builds the Jeep Wrangler and the Dodge Nitro, as reported in the Toledo BladeSome production is shifting to China.  Annenberg Fact Check’s story misleads just as surely as the Romney ad.

 

We find a similar sympathy to the Obama campaign from the Washington Post Fact Checker, Glenn Kessler, on the issue of bankruptcy:

 

Yes, Obama ultimately took the automakers through bankruptcy, but that was only after the predicate had been established for their survival, including extending government loans (a process originally started by the George W. Bush administration over Romney’s objections).

 

Kessler appears to excuse Mr. Obama via a minor caveat.  All of the government loans to the automakers came with strings attached, strings that drew GM and Chrysler toward a mandatory restructuring process analogous to a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.  Kessler explicitly states that he gives Obama the edge in the dispute because a “majority” of experts  doubt Romney’s bankruptcy approach would have worked in 2008.  That’s not fact checking the dispute.  It’s arbitration.

What’s going on with these fact checkers?

Journalists tend to lean left, and if you could use a giant crowbar to get journalists to open up about their voting patterns you’d probably find they favor Democrats by a wide margin in the federal government.

Their political views affect their reporting and analysis.
The overall pattern makes journalists guilty of the same sort of deception with which they charge Romney.  They fact check Romney on the particulars of his claims about the automaker bailouts and let the Obama campaign’s central deception pass without much scrutiny.  Bader provides a superb case in point:

 

PolitiFact leaves out Bush, and refers to the bailouts as Obama’s “rescue of the auto industry,” in a flawed recent “fact-check” of a claim that is literally true but arguably misleading …

 

That’s right. PolitiFact takes a preferred Obama campaign claim about its rescue of the auto industry and states it matter-of-factly in a fact check of Romney. No additional context needed, apparently.

The media treatment of the dispute between the campaigns misses the context while focusing on the particulars. Romney is not simply making statements about Obama’s role in the auto bailout. His campaign is answering the Obama campaign’s messaging and pointing out missing parts of its story.

There’s clearly more to the story than PolitiFact’s glowing “one of Barack Obama’s key advantages in (Ohio) — his rescue of the auto industry.”

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