Right-Wing Media Spins Bain Capital Criticism As "Attack On Capitalism"

››› ››› KEVIN ZIEBER

Following the Obama campaign's ad highlighting Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital, right-wing media are hysterically calling the ad an attack on private equity and even "an attack on capitalism" itself. But the ad clearly and specifically targets Romney's own work at Bain Capital -- which Romney and his campaign have repeatedly touted as crucial experience for dealing with the economy -- not private equity or capitalism as a whole.

Obama Campaign Releases Bain Capital Ad

Associated Press: "Obama 'Vampire' Ads Target Romney On Economy." The Obama campaign released an ad featuring former steel workers from a plant taken over and eventually shuttered by Bain Capital:

At the center of the Obama campaign effort are a new website, TV ad and online video including interviews with onetime workers at a Kansas City, Mo., steel mill that Romney's former private equity firm failed to successfully restructure. Workers lost jobs and health care benefits. Pensions were reduced.

"It was like a vampire. They came in and sucked the life out of us," says steelworker Jack Cobb. Add John Wiseman: "Bain Capital walked away with a lot of money that they made off this plant. We view Mitt Romney as a job destroyer. [Associated Press, 5/14/12]

Ad Only Targets Bain Capital, Not Private Equity Or Capitalism. Obama's ad contains no mentions of private equity or capitalism as a whole, but is in fact focused only on Romney's record with Bain Capital. From the ad:

JOE SOPTIC: I was a steel worker for 30 years. We had a reputation for quality products. It was something that was American-made. And we weren't rich, but I was able to put my daughter through college.

JOHN WISEMAN: Having a good-paying job that you can support and raise a family on is hugely important.

SOPTIC: That stopped with the sale of the plant to Bain Capital.

MITT ROMNEY, GOP PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I know how business works. I know why jobs come and why they go.

DAVID FOSTER: Bain Capital was the majority owner. They were responsible. Mitt Romney was deeply involved in the influence that he exercised over these companies.

SOPTIC: They made as much money off of it as they could and they closed it down. They filed for bankruptcy without any concern for the families or the communities.

JACK COBB: It was like a vampire. They came in and sucked the life out of us.

SOPTIC: It was like watching an old friend bleed to death.

ROMNEY: As I look around at the millions of Americans without work, it breaks my heart.

WISEMAN: Bain Capital sought elimination of the pension plan and termination of employee and retiree life insurance and health insurance.

SOPTIC: I was devastated. It makes me angry. Those guys were all rich. They all have more money than they'll ever spend, yet they didn't have the money to take care of the very people that made the money for them.

WISEMAN: Bain Capital walked away with a lot of money that they made off of this plant. We view Mitt Romney as a job destroyer.

COBB: To get up on national TV and brag about making jobs when he has destroyed thousands of people's careers, lifetimes -- just destroying people.

SOPTIC: He's running for president, and if he's going to run the country the way he ran our businesses I wouldn't want him there. He's so out of touch with the average person in this country. How could you care? How could you care for the average working person if you feel that way? [YouTube, 5/14/12]

Bain Capital Ad Is About Romney And His Record, Not Private Equity As A Whole

President Obama: Romney's Bain Capital Experience Is Relevant Because "His Main Calling Card For Why He Thinks He Should Be President Is His Business Experience." During a press conference at the NATO summit, President Obama focused the attack on Romney's record in private equity, not all private equity:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: The reason this is relevant to the campaign is because my opponent, Governor Romney, his main calling card for why he thinks he should be president is his business experience. ... [H]e's not going out there touting his experience in Massachusetts. He's saying "I'm a business guy, and I know how to fix it," and this is his business. ... When you're president -- as opposed to the head of a private equity firm -- your job is not simply to maximize profits. Your job is to figure out how everybody in the country has a fair shot. [Politico, 5/21/12]

Obama Campaign Official: "No One Is Questioning The Private Equity Industry." On a conference call following the release of the ad, Obama campaign deputy manager Stephanie Cutter made clear that the ad was not an indictment of all private equity. From Politico:

"No one is questioning the private equity industry as a whole," Obama campaign deputy manager Stephanie Cutter said on a Monday conference call.

[...]

"This is about the values that Romney lived by," Cutter told reporters. "This is about whether Romney's business experience qualifies him to make the right decisions as president."

"What exactly happened at Bain Capital that gives Romney the experience to run a national economy?" Cutter asked.

Cutter noted that when these attacks surfaced during the GOP primary, Romney consistently lost voters whose incomes were under $50,000.

"It really was damaging to Mitt Romney," Cutter said. [Politico, 5/14/12]

Fox's Bob Beckel: Obama Hasn't Made Private Equity Central To Campaign, "He's Made Romney's Claim To Be A Job Creator" Central. Fox News contributor Bob Beckel pointed out that the ads are aimed specifically at Mitt Romney's time at Bain Capital, and not a private equity as a whole, prompting Fox's Dana Perino to accuse Beckel of splitting hairs:

BECKEL: To listen to you all equate private equity with free enterprise with big business, with the things that actually create jobs, and a little, small part of our economy to make it into the big attack on private enterprise and free enterprise --

KIMBERLEY GUILFOYLE (co-host): That's not what we're saying.

BECKEL: Yes it is. It's exactly what you said -- which is absolutely ridiculous.

DANA PERINO (co-host): But President Obama has made this the center piece of his attack against Romney, so don't you think we should be talking about it?

BECKEL: He hasn't made private equity. He has made Romney's claim to be a job creator because of his Bain Capital -- and that has proved to be a flat-out lie.

PERINO: OK. And that is where the splitting of the hairs comes, and I don't know if people are going to buy it. [Fox News, The Five, 5/21/12]

Slate Chief Political Correspondent John Dickerson: "It's Well Within Bounds To Put [Romney's Bain Capital] Career Under A Microscope." Addressing the ad focusing on Romney's time at Bain, John Dickerson argued that because Mitt Romney has "argued repeatedly that his career at Bain ... gives him special insight" into the economy, it is relevant to "assess the truth of his claims." [Slate, 5/21/12]

New York's Jonathan Chait: Obama's Defense Of Bain Capital Ad "Is Perfectly Sound." New York magazine's Jonathan Chait wrote that Romney's "is running on his record at Bain Capital." He also called Obama's defense of the Bain ad "perfectly sound." He added: "Romney has made his business career the center of his claim to expertise. Obama's ads suggest reasons why voters should eye this experience warily." [New York, 5/21/12]

PolitiFact: Romney "Made A Profit From Taking Over GST, And The Employees Lost Many Benefits Their Union Had Negotiated." PolitiFact found the Bain Capital ad's claims to be "mostly true":

We are checking this claim: "After purchasing the company, Mitt Romney and his partners loaded it with debt, closed the Kansas City plant and walked away with a healthy profit, leaving hundreds of employees out of work with their pensions in jeopardy."

We found, through corporate filings, interviews and investigations by other news organizations, that the statement is accurate but needs some clarification. First, it's true that Bain added significantly to GST's debt load while paying dividends to itself. The plant's closure, however, happened after Romney had left daily operations at Bain, though he led Bain during six years of its majority investment in the plant. And other, outside factors were at work, making the steel industry a tough business. Steel prices were low and electricity costs were high, and those forces drove other steel mills out of business around the same time.

The statement's last two claims are solid: Bain (and Romney) made a profit from taking over GST, and the employees lost many benefits their union had negotiated, including supplemental pension payments. The federal government had to step in to shore up the fund.

We rate the claim Mostly True. [PolitiFact, 5/16/12]

Romney Campaign Has Repeatedly Touted His Experience At Bain Capital

Gov. Mitt Romney: 25 Years In Business Has "Given Me An Understanding Of How America Works And How The Economy Works." In an interview with TIME's Mark Halperin, Romney explained that his experience in business has given him an understanding of how the economy works:

HALPERIN: The President says that your experience at Bain Capital will be central in this election. He says it does not qualify you to be a job creator as President. I know you think that working in the private sector in and of itself gives you insight into how the economy works, but what specific skills or policies did you learn at Bain that would help you create an environment where jobs would be created?

ROMNEY: Well that's a bit of a question like saying, what have you learned in life that would help you lead? My whole life has been learning to lead, from my parents, to my education, to the experience I had in the private sector, to helping run the Olympics, and then of course helping guide a state. Those experiences in totality have given me an understanding of how America works and how the economy works. Twenty five years in business, including business with other nations, competing with companies across the world, has given me an understanding of what it is that makes America a good place to grow and add jobs, and why jobs leave America - why businesses decide to locate here, and why they decide to locate somewhere else. What outsourcing causes - what it's caused by, rather. I understand, for instance, how to read a balance sheet. I happen to believe that having been in the private sector for twenty five years gives me a perspective on how jobs are created - that someone who's never spent a day in the private sector, like President Obama, simply doesn't understand.

HALPERIN: I want to ask you to be just a little bit more specific about that, because again, he said this is like the central way he's going to run this campaign, to focus on your business career. You said you know how to read a balance sheet. There are a lot of people in America who know how to do that. What would make you qualify to be President - again, specific things you've learned, things you know, policies that grow out of your experience at Bain Capital that would lead toward job creation.

ROMNEY: Well Mark, let's be a little more specific as to the area you'd like to suggest. Trade policies? Labor policies? Energy policies? Let's take energy, for instance. I understand that in some industries, the input cost of energy is a major factor in whether an industry is going to locate in the United States or go elsewhere. So, when at Bain Capital, we started a new steel company called Steel Dynamics in Indiana, the cost of energy was a very important factor to the success of that enterprise. [TIME, 5/23/12]

Romney: "I've Had A Number Of Leadership Experiences And I Know How To Run Things." Romney touted his business experience at Bain Capital during the Republican primary in February:

[W]ith the rise of Rick Santorum, Romney's past as a successful manager -- of the Olympics, Bain Capital and the state of Massachusetts -- has become an even more central point of contrast between Romney and his competition.

"[Santorum has] never run a business, never run a city, never run a state, has no experience in leading or running something," Romney told a Detroit radio station on Wednesday, in response to a question about why he's a better choice than Santorum. "My experience was I started off in business, worked my way up and became head of a business and, then started a business of my own successfully, and then was asked to go out and run the Olympics and ran that successfully, and then became a governor and was successful in running that."

As a result, Romney said, he can more effectively lead the country than Santorum.

"I've had a number of leadership experiences and I know how to run things and know how to lead," he said. [Politico, 2/18/12]

Romney On Record Of Job Creation At Bain Capital: "I'm Going To Stand And Defend Capitalism ... Throughout This Campaign." During the CNN Republican primary presidential debate on January 19, Mitt Romney responded to a question about his claims of job creation during his time at Bain Capital:

ROMNEY: We started a number of businesses. Four in particular created 120,000 jobs. As of today. We started them years ago. They've grown well beyond the time I was there to 120,000 people that have been employed by those enterprises. There are other we've been with. Some we have been with, some of which have lost jobs. People have evaluated that - since - well, since I ran four years ago when I ran for governor. And those that have been documented to lost jobs lost about 10,000 jobs. So 120,000 less 10 means we created something over 100,000 jobs. There's some, by the way, that were businesses we acquired that grew and became more successful like Domino's Pizza and a company called Duane Reade and others. I'm very proud of the fact that throughout my career we tried to build enterprises hopefully to try to return money to investors. There's nothing wrong with profit, by the way. That profit -- that profit went to pension funds, to charities. It went to a wide array of institutions. A lot of people benefited from that and by the way as enterprises has become more profitable, they can hire more people. I'm someone who believes in free enterprise. I think Adam Smith was right. And I'm going to stand and defend capitalism across this country throughout this campaign. I know we're going to get it hard from President Obama but we'll stuff it down his throat and point out it is capitalism and freedom that makes America strong. [MittRomney.com, 1/19/12]

Romney Communications Director Highlighted Bain Capital Job Creation Claims. In a blog post on Mitt Romney's campaign website, Romney communications director Gail Gitcho touted Romney's record at Bain, citing 2011 employment levels at several companies that Bain had invested in. [MittRomney.com, 1/19/12]

Romney Spokeswoman Andrea Saul: Romney's Experience At Bain Capital Give Him "Unique Skills And Capabilities" To Deal With The Economy. During the primary, the Romney campaign defended his record at Bain and argued that it made him uniquely qualified to be president:

In a broadly worded statement, Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul defended the candidate's record in the private sector and said that at Bain & Co., Romney "helped lead a successful turnaround. At Bain Capital, he helped launch and guide a private equity and financial services firm."

"Bain Capital invested in many businesses; while not every business was successful, the firm had an excellent overall track record," Saul said. "These experiences give Mr. Romney the unique skills and capabilities to do what President Obama has failed to do: focus on job creation and turn around our nation's faltering economy." [Politico, 7/14/11]

Romney Campaign Released Ad Highlighting Bain Capital Investment In Successful Steel Company. On May 14, the Romney campaign released an ad hyping the Bain investment in Steel Dynamics. The narration in the ad says, "SDI almost never got started. When others shied away, Mitt Romney's private sector leadership team stepped in." [MittRomney.com, 5/14/12]

But Right-Wing Media Label Obama's Bain Capital Ad As "An Attack On Capitalism"

Fox's Gretchen Carlson: Ad Is "An Attack On Capitalism" Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson called the Bain Capital ad "an attack on capitalism":

CARLSON: So, how does the President get away with having it both ways? He had this huge fundraiser with a huge private equity guy here in New York City from Blackstone. And at the same time he's vilifying Mitt Romney for doing the exact same thing.

[...]

CARLSON: It is a double standard. It's an attack on capitalism. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/16/12]

Wall Street Journal'sKim Strassel: "This Is About A President Who Thinks Private Business Is Bad." On Meet The Press, Kim Strassel stated that the reason for going after Romney's time at Bain Capital was that the President "thinks private business is bad":

STRASSEL: Bain fundamentally is about two conflicting visions.

[...]

STRASSEL: This is about a president who thinks that private business is bad, that you need bigger government, more regulation, higher taxes, all of those things, and that people like Mitt Romney who were job creators fundamentally suck the life out of the economy. [NBC, Meet The Press, 5/20/12]

Fox's Gretchen Carlson: "This Class Warfare Dialogue, Which Some People Believe Is Happening, Is Going To Continue." Discussing President Obama's comments about the Bain Capital ad, Carlson said:

CARLSON: You have to go back to that press conference yesterday with President Obama when he was asked point blank, do you blame Governor Romney for those job losses, he didn't answer the question. So, I'm not so sure that he's going to point blank blame Romney like those ads do, but it's obvious that they're not walking away from this discussion, guys. They are not walking away from this. The president made it very clear yesterday. This is not a distraction. This comes down to a difference in philosophy and ideology about how two different men would run this country. The president says that Mitt Romney is missing what the president's job is all about. The job is not simply to maximize profits, it's to give everyone a fair shot. Have we heard that before? This lingo, this class warfare dialogue, which some people believe is happening is going to continue. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 5/22/12]

Fox's Andrea Tantaros: Obama Is Trying To Win Re-Election By "Going After Capitalism." On America's Newsroom, The Five co-host Andrea Tantaros stated that President Obama was going to try to win re-election by "going after capitalism":

TANTAROS: This is such a baseless charge about Bain Capital, and it's laughable to think that somehow the president is going to win an election going after capitalism. And he's doing it, might I add, by himself. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 5/22/12]

Right-Wing Media Have Repeatedly Claimed Obama Is Anti-Business

Bill O'Reilly: "Some Perceive" That Obama Is Fostering An "Anti-Business Climate." Speaking about the Obama campaign's fundraising, O'Reilly said:

O'REILLY: [Casino owner Steve Wynn] Does not like -- and I don't believe he's alone -- the anti-business climate that some perceive President Obama is fostering. So, why would the fat cats want to give the president four more years when he's done such a poor job on the economy? [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 7/19/11 via Media Matters]

Fox's Eric Bolling: Obama Is "Demonizing" Business Owners. In response to the founder of BET commenting that the White House lacked leadership on the economy, Eric Bolling stated:

BOLLING: [Obama]'s demonizing the business community, the business environment. I mean, the whole, you know, taxing people making over $250,000 a year -- that's small businesses. The business community is saying enough already with the class warfare trying to say if you're successful and you've made money, you're going to help pay for some of the social programs that he's always trying to make bigger and bigger. [Fox News, The Five, 9/28/11 via Media Matters]

Fox's Charlie Gasparino: Obama "Has Some Very Anti-Business Instincts." On America Live, Fox Business reporter Charlie Gasparino claimed President Obama has "anti-business instincts" while discussing his theory that GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt secretly wants Romney to win:

GASPARINO: I think [Immelt] took the job for two reasons -- and this is like an outside adviser's job. Number one: Yes, to help GE.

[...]

GASPARINO: I think the second part is that he did feel like he wanted to give something back, that he did want to be part of an effort to show Obama, who clearly has -- listen, I don't think this is a political statement - he has some very anti-business instincts. [Fox News, America Live, 3/20/12 via Media Matters]

Charlie Gasparino: "This Administration Is Anti-Business, And That's Scary." When the National Labor Relations Board sued Boeing for allegedly moving work from Washington state to North Carolina, Gasparino stated:

GASPARINO: I know the Obama administration is going out of its way to say it's not anti-business.

[...]

GASPARINO: I tell you, this is really scary for investors in this country, because it's just proving that this administration is anti-business, and that's scary when you have nine percent unemployment. [Fox News, Cavuto on Business, 5/28/11]

Fox's Charles Payne: "The War Against Business Has Been Ratcheted Up Tremendously." During a segment about the NLRB suing Boeing, Fox contributor Charles Payne said: "The war against business has been ratcheted up tremendously." [Fox News, Cavuto on Business, 5/28/11]

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