In a Fox News report about campaign events Mitt Romney is holding in key battleground states, chief correspondent Carl Cameron noted recent polling in Ohio and described the Romney campaign's "final sprint," set to begin in that state. Yet not once did Cameron make note of the backlash Romney is facing for running campaign ads in Ohio that falsely claim Chrysler is sending a Jeep production line from the United States to China.
During his report, Cameron pointed out how polls show Romney trailing in Ohio but that the Romney campaign "would argue that the ground game will put them over the top and that they're ready to win this."
But Cameron neglected to mention that Romney has drawn heavy criticism for running ads in Ohio that falsely claim Jeep is sending U.S. jobs to China.
At an Ohio rally on October 26, Romney said that he "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." The Detroit News reported that Romney was apparently responding to reports "on right-leaning blogs that misinterpreted a recent Bloomberg News story earlier this week that said Chrysler, owned by Italian automaker Fiat SpA, is thinking of building Jeeps in China for sale in the Chinese market."
The following day, Romney's campaign began running a television ad in Ohio repeating the same claim -- that Chrysler is going to move Jeep production to China. The ad left "the misleading impression that the move would come at the expense of jobs here," The New York Times explained.
Chrysler, Jeep's parent company, quickly denied claims that it was considering moving Jeep production from the United States to China. The Toledo Blade reported:
Chrysler is strongly denying a report the company was considering moving all of its Jeep production to China.
The company has not been shy about wanting to build Jeeps in China, but Chrysler says it won't quit building them in the United States.
"Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China," Gualberto Ranieri, the company's senior vice president for corporate communications, wrote Thursday in a blog posted on Chrysler's Web site.
"It is simply reviewing the opportunities to return Jeep output to China for the world's largest auto market."
Mr. Ranieri said in his blog that some people misinterpreted the Bloomberg story.
"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 ... . It is a leap that would be difficult even for circus acrobats."
The Detroit News likewise called Romney's claim "false" and CBS News described the claim as "inaccurate"; PolitiFact rated Romney's claim "pants on fire" false, and The Washington Post's resident fact checker, Glenn Kessler, gave the ad "four Pinocchios," writing:
The series of statements in the ad individually may be technically correct, but the overall message of the ad is clearly misleading -- especially since it appears to have been designed to piggyback off of Romney's gross misstatement that Chrysler was moving Ohio factory jobs to China.
Nonetheless, Romney doubled down on the Jeep attack on Tuesday with a radio ad in Toledo, Ohio, the site of a Jeep plant. As The Washington Post's Greg Sargent explained, the radio ad "suggests that the auto bailout did not save the industry for Ohio, and saved it for China instead," and "then strongly implies that the Jeep/China news constitutes a breaking of the auto bailout's promise to Ohio auto workers -- that it proves the auto bailout is not helping them, that it has let them down."
Romney has received extensive criticism from Ohio newspapers for these ads. On Monday, The Columbus Dispatch fact-checked Romney's television ad, noting not only that his Jeep claim is wrong, but that he opposed the auto industry rescue. In an editorial on Tuesday, the Cleveland Plain Dealer called the Romney Jeep claims "reckless" and argued that he is "desperate to convince Ohio voters that he's the candidate most committed to the U.S. auto industry -- no matter how much confusion he must sow to do it."
On the same day, the Toledo Blade highlighted President Clinton's statement that Romney's claim was "the biggest load of bull in the world" and Chrysler's statement that "the firm was considering ramping up production in China, but not at the expense of its North American operations." In another report the same day, the Blade reported on a new Obama campaign ad that rebutted Romney's false claims about the Jeep plant.
In spreading these false claims, the Romney campaign has forced Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, to reassure investors that the company is not moving U.S. production overseas. In an email to shareholders on Tuesday, Marchionne explained that Romney's Jeep claim is "inaccurate" and "Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China." Marchionne added that Chrysler is planning to "return Jeep production to China, the world's largest auto market, in order to satisfy local market demand," and explained that Chrysler intends to add Jeep jobs in the United States.
Marchionne is not the only auto industry executive to say that Romney's claims are inaccurate. In an interview with the Detroit Free Press about Romney's auto ad, Greg Martin, the executive director of Communications Strategy and News Operations at General Motors, said: "No amount of campaign politics at its cynical worst will diminish our record of creating jobs in the U.S. and repatriating profits back to this country."
Romney's comments have also caused American autoworkers to needlessly fear they are going to lose their jobs. The New York Times reported:
Bruce Baumhower, the president of the United Auto Workers local that oversees the major Jeep plant here, said Mr. Romney's initial comments on moving production to China drew a rash of calls from members concerned about their jobs. When he informed them Chrysler was, in fact, is expanding its Jeep operation here, he said in an interview, "The response has been, 'That's pretty pitiful.' "