How Fox Fact-Checks A Misleading Romney Ad: "Basically It's True"

››› ››› SHAUNA THEEL

Fact-checkers have said that nearly every claim made in the latest Romney ad attacking green energy investments and the stimulus is misleading or false. Yet on The O'Reilly Factor, Lou Dobbs said "Basically [the ad is] true," and he and O'Reilly went on to amplify several of the misleading attacks in the ad.

The O'Reilly Factor Declares False Romney Ad "Basically ... True"

Lou Dobbs On Romney Ad: "Basically It's True." After airing the full Romney campaign ad, Bill O'Reilly asked Fox Business host Lou Dobbs to "do a truth serum on this ad," and Dobbs responded, "Basically it's true." He added, "There are exceptions to that. There are a couple of issues that the ad, I think, missed, but overall, absolutely straight forwardly directly true." [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 7/18/12]

New York Times: "Much Of The Ad Is False," Stimulus Mainly Helped Middle-Class And Poor Families. The New York Times noted that contrary to the ad's claim that "all the Obama stimulus money" went to "friends, donors, campaign supporters, [and] special interest groups," the majority of stimulus funds went to programs such as tax credits for the middle-class, Medicaid grants that help poor families, and public school funding:

Much of the ad is false, including its first claim. Referring to the 2009 stimulus law backed by President Obama and passed by the Democratic-controlled Congress, the ad asks where "all" the stimulus money went and then answers its own question by saying to special-interest groups and friends and backers of Mr. Obama. But of $763 billion in stimulus money used so far, the largest amount has been hundreds of billions of dollars for such things as a tax credit for working middle-income families, larger exemptions for families hit by the alternative minimum tax, public school funding and Medicaid grants. The ad accurately notes that a little over $500 million was for loan guarantees for Solyndra, a solar energy firm that collapsed last year. The company's largest investor was a nonprofit antipoverty foundation whose major backer is an Obama fund-raiser. But another major Solyndra investor was a firm connected with donors to the Republican Party. [New York Times, 7/18/12]

CBO: Economic Stimulus Increased Employment By Over 1 Million Jobs. An August 2011 report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act "[l]owered the unemployment rate by between 0.5 percentage points and 1.6 percentage points" and that the recovery bill "[i]ncreased the number of people employed by between 1.0 million and 2.9 million" during the second quarter of 2011. [Congressional Budget Office, August 2011]

Private Analysts Estimate Stimulus Increased Employment By 2.4 To 2.5 Million. In its seventh quarterly report on ARRA, the president's Council of Economic Advisersprovided the following chart showing that private forecasters estimate that as of the first quarter of 2011, the stimulus increased employment between 2.4 and 2.5 million:

Source: CEA

[Council of Economic Advisers, 7/1/11]

Factor Pushes False Claim That Stimulus Funding Went To "Electric Cars In Finland"

Dobbs: "Bush Himself Was Not" Involved In Electric Vehicle Loans. O'Reilly accurately stated that the "Fisker thing ... started during the Bush the Younger's administration," but then Dobbs falsely repudiated him:

VIDEO OF ROMNEY AD: So where did the Obama stimulus money go? Windmills from China, electric cars from Finland.

[...]

O'REILLY: And then there was this Fisker thing, this is Alan Colmes is a fanatic about this. All right, but this started during the Bush the Younger's administration, right? To try to get the electric car thing up and running, right?

DOBBS: No, so actually, the Fisker was put together Kleiner Perkins, it's one of the big supporters of it. Steve Wesley was also helping.

O'REILLY: And these are big, big Obama guys, right?

DOBBS: Right.

[...]

O'REILLY: So they want electric cars, but Bush was in this, too. Bush was in this too.

DOBBS: Bush himself was not in this.

O'REILLY: All right, not in the Bush administration? My notes are no good?

DOBBS: No, your notes are very good. The problem with it is that this money was dispatched by the Obama administration.

O'REILLY: All right. All right, so let's blame it all on Barack Obama. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 7/18/12]

Politifact: Fisker Received Loan Through Bush-Era Program Unrelated To Stimulus. Politifact clarified that Fisker's loan was funded by a program that started under the Bush administration and that the "stimulus bill had nothing to do with it":

[Fisker received a loan guarantee from] the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program through the Energy Department. And it's not funded by Obama's stimulus bill -- otherwise known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. It is, in fact, a program signed into existence by President George W. Bush in 2007 and first funded by legislation Bush signed in 2008.
The program was designed to support development of advanced technology vehicles.
The Bush administration was in charge when the automaker filed its application. The Obama administration was in charge when the company's loan was approved. The stimulus bill had nothing to do with it. [Politifact, 4/26/12]

O'Reilly: "Why Did We Send Money To Finland?" Although Dobbs mentioned that Fisker was "going to build" a less expensive car in Delaware, no one made clear that no federal funding went toward the Finnish plant. O'Reilly even incorrectly claimed we "sen[t] money to Finland":

O'REILLY: But why did we send money to Finland then? Why? If you're going build them in Delaware, just send it to Dover, why are we sending it to Finland?

DOBBS: They gave it to Fisker and that's the way it is.

O'REILLY: OK so Fisker is over there so they want to money goes their money there and then it comes back to Delaware. This is crazy. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 7/18/12]

DOE Funding Was Spent In The U.S., Not Finland. As the New York Times and others have repeatedly pointed out, Fisker and the Energy Department say that Fisker's loan went towards U.S. projects:

The ad's claim that stimulus money went to "electric cars from Finland" is false, according to the car's manufacturer and the Energy Department. The struggling company, Fisker Automotive, received approval from Obama administration officials for $529 million in government loans under a George W. Bush-era program, not the stimulus. Most of that loan, intended for a plant in Delaware, has been suspended. The $193 million actually lent to Fisker was spent in the United States, not at its plant in Finland, according to Fisker and the Energy Department. Fisker's investors include firms whose executives have donated to both parties. [New York Times, 7/18/12]

The Washington Post reported that PricewaterhouseCoopers reviewed the expenditures to ensure that loan guarantee money was only spent in the U.S.:

This concerns a loan guarantee to Fisker Automotive, which The Washington Post has identified as troubled. But the company disputes the RNC's claim that $500 billion in U.S. money (via two loans) is being spent to produce cars overseas. Instead, the company says the money has been spent on design and engineering activities in the United States, and the expenditures have been reviewed by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Ultimately, the company plans to build a lower-priced version of its car in Delaware, using a $359 million loan, but less than $25 million that has been disbursed so far. [Washington Post, 7/12/12]

The Firm That O'Reilly Suggested Was Full Of "Big Obama Guys" Also Employs Republican Donors. The Washington Post Fact-Checker noted that senior Romney adviser Ed Gillespie "singled our John Doerr, a wealth venture capitalist at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers" and suggested that "because Doerr raised money for Obama, he was rewarded with a big loan for a company in which his firm invested." But the Washington Post pointed out that "the Kleiner partner mostly closely associated with the Fisker investment is Ray Lane," who "contributes to some Democrats but mostly Republicans -- and he gave money to Rudolph Giuliani and John McCain in 2008, not Barack Obama or other Democrats running for president." The Post further noted that Meg Whitman is a Kleiner partner and a "$100,000 contributor to Romney's SuperPAC Restore Our Future." [Washington Post, 7/18/12]

Factor Fails To Mention American Wind Jobs Created By The Stimulus

O'Reilly: "What Was The Intent Of Giving Any Money To Build Chinese Windmills?" Dobbs acknowledged, while laughing, that only "a few windmills were actually supported by American taxpayer dollars," but he didn't explain that only some of the turbines were manufactured overseas, why that happened, or how the stimulus still created American wind energy jobs:

VIDEO OF ROMNEY AD: So where did the Obama stimulus money go? Windmills from China, electric cars from Finland.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER: 79 percent of the $2.1 billion in stimulus grants awarded through -- went to overseas companies.

[...]

LOU DOBBS: The Chinese windmills are the -- is probably the weakest part of the Romney ad because only a few -- (laughs) a few windmills were actually supported by American taxpayer dollars.

O'REILLY: But why do we want to support Chinese windmills?

DOBBS: We don't. But the ad makes it sound like there are a gusher of windmills.

O'REILLY: But what was the -- what was the intent of giving any money to build Chinese windmills?

DOBBS: The intent was to get out there, it's green energy, and the President of the United States --

O'REILLY: So they build them over in China and sent them back over here?

DOBBS: Right and what's really --

O'REILLY: Is that what this thing was?

DOBBS: Exactly and what gets really cool about this is not only would we be supporting them shipping the windmills in, we would be setting up companies like Solyndra and others to manufacture our solar panels while China is dumping them in this country. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 7/18/12]

Report: Stimulus Created 51,000 U.S. Jobs In Wind Turbine Industry. The Washington Post noted that the stimulus created about 51,000 jobs in the U.S. wind industry, but that some tax credits went to foreign firms that manufactured turbines overseas because the U.S. was simply unable to meet the demand for wind turbines at the time:

Indeed, U.S. manufacturers simply don't yet have the capacity to make all of the turbines. A report by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (which is part of the Energy Department) estimated that about 51,000 U.S. jobs were created in the wind-turbine industry by the stimulus funding. The report estimated the number of jobs theoretically could have been more than 80,000 if the money had been restricted to U.S. manufacturers, but there is no way the U.S. industry could have handled the demand. Thus, " a 100% domestic content requirement could yield significant near-term domestic job losses relative to the current program design," the report said. [Washington Post, 4/30/12]

ABC: "Less Than .000031 Percent" Of Stimulus Went To Wind Turbines Made In China. When the National Republican Campaign Committee made a similar claim, ABC News called it "misleading":

There's a grain of truth to it, but the charge is misleading. Out of the 33,000 wind turbines in use in America today, ABC News could find only three that were made in China with stimulus dollars. They cost less than $2.5 million -- less than .000031 percent of the $814 billion stimulus program.

The allegation in the ad is based in part on a joint ABC News/Investigative Reporting Workshop investigation from February that found as much as 79 percent of stimulus money allotted for wind energy had gone to foreign developers, but most of those companies were in Europe, not China, and some of them manufacture their wind turbines in the United States. By last month, the percentage of wind energy stimulus funds that went to foreign firms fell to 54 percent, according to the Investigative Reporting Workshop.

Our report also cited a joint U.S./Chinese venture in Texas that may get up to $450 million in stimulus funding. But that project has not yet received a dime of stimulus money. [ABC News, 10/27/10]

Several Mainstream Outlets Uncritically Repeat Romney Ad Claims

ABC, CNN, Fox, The Hill, PBS, USA TODAY Repeat False Romney Ad Claims. An ABCNews.com blog, CNN.com article, FoxNews.com blog, The Hill, a PBS.org article, and a USA TODAY post repeated several misleading claims from the Romney ad without providing any of the facts that contradict these claims. [ABCNews.com, 7/18/12] [CNN.com, 7/18/12] [FoxNews.com, 7/18/12] [The Hill, 7/18/12] [PBS.org, 7/18/12] [USA TODAY, 7/18/12]

Des Moines Register Provides "Facts" Supporting Romney Ad. A Des Moines Register blog provided the script of the Romney ad along with "AD FACTS" that supposedly support the claims made in the ad. While the Register quoted the Obama campaign pointing out that fact-checkers have rebutted the claims in the ads, the Register did not outline those rebuttals. [Des Moines Register, 7/18/12]

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