CNN's Ari Fleischer Fails At Fact-Checking Janesville Auto Plant Myth

CNN contributor Ari Fleisher distorted the history of a Wisconsin auto plant that closed in 2008, a dishonest attempt to defend Paul Ryan from scrutiny over false claims he has made.

Ryan has been sharply critical of President Obama's rescue of the U.S. auto industry in 2009, falsely accusing Obama of going back on a promise to save a GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin. Ryan returned to that claim during his  convention speech Wednesday:

A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: “I believe that if our government is there to support you ... this plant will be here for another hundred years.” That's what he said in 2008.

Well, as it turned out, that plant didn't last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day. And that's how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight.

Independent fact-checkers have rated Ryan's charge false, pointing out that the Janesville plant closed in 2008, before Obama took office. Fleischer, who appeared on CNN to dissect Ryan's speech, rejected the analysis of those fact-checkers. Announcing his intention to “fact-check the fact-checkers,” Fleischer cited a September 2011 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article and said:

The Janesville plant stopped production of SUVs in 2008 and was idled in 2009 after it completed production of medium-duty trucks. Paul Ryan was right. The fact-checkers are wrong.

But fact-checkers have already factored that evidence into their analysis. According to PolitiFact, which pointed out that the plant did in fact close before Obama took office, “Several dozen workers stayed on another four months to finish an order of small- to medium-duty trucks for Isuzu Motors.”

This evidence, already in the public record, does nothing to disprove the fact that the decision to close the Janesville plant was made before Obama took office. 

The very same Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Fleischer cited as the authoritative voice on this issue reported that the Janesville plant closed in December 2008:

Workers finished the final production shift and walked out of the General Motors plant Tuesday, personal belongings and unchecked emotions in tow, never again likely to see the inside of the sprawling industrial complex that provided a livelihood and a way of life for generations.

That the last vehicle rolled off the line on a gloomy late December day punctuated by snow and biting wind under a sodden gray sky seemed appropriate. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinal, 12/24/08, via Nexis]