Further, PolitiFact criticized the Romney ad for something it didn't say. Romney's ad never said Jeep was "outsourcing" existing jobs. Again, a fair reading of the ad would be that it implied that Jeep was choosing to create new jobs overseas rather than in the U.S. And if we're going to get technical, what PolitiFact reported about Jeep wasn't accurate. Here's PolitiFact quoting a Chrysler spokesman in their "Lie of the Year" ruling:
"Let’s set the record straight: Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China," Ranieri wrote, adding, "A careful and unbiased reading of the Bloomberg take would have saved unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments."
But that turns out not to be entirely true! As the Detroit News reported earlier this week:
[Chrysler CEO Sergio] Marchionne said he will keep "the pillar cars of the Jeep (brand) in the United States. Wrangler is one. The Grand Cherokee is another. These are things that need to be protected because they represent the best and the essence of Jeep. If you tell me I cannot make a Patriot somewhere else, I might as well go out of the market."
To recap, Jeep Patriots—oh irony, you capricious sprite!—that were heretofore exclusively produced in America and sold overseas are now going to be made and sold overseas. So there is one Jeep model that is in fact shifting production "out of North America to China," contrary to what Jeep's spokesman asserted at the time.
On that note, we all know that "fact checking" is kabuki journalism, but would it have killed PolitiFact to act like real reporters for five seconds and express some richly deserved skepticism about Jeep's carefully worded denials about producing cars in China? It was obvious that since the company had received a taxpayer bailout largely engineered by an incumbent president up for reelection, that it was not in Jeep's interest to upset the Obama campaign applecart. Michael Dorstewitz at BizPac Review points out that Jeep was pretty clearly engaged in obfuscation:
When the controversy first erupted, Italian-born Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne was unequivocal in denying that Jeep had plans to move any of its operations to China. That was on Oct. 30, one week before the presidential election.
“I feel obliged to unambiguously restate our position: Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China,” he wrote in a letter to employees, according to NBC News. “Jeep assembly lines will remain in operation in the United States and will constitute the backbone of the brand. … It is inaccurate to suggest anything different.”
However, Marchione dodged the issue. The Romney ad never said that the Jeep brand was going to move to China — it only said that Chrysler was going to build Jeeps in China.
Nonetheless, PolitiFact dubbed the Romney ad the “Lie of the Year” and described it as “a lie told in the critical state of Ohio in the final days of a close campaign.”
Now I'd be confounded by PolitiFact's total inability to handle basic empirical matters if their motivation wasn't so transparent. Their "Lie of the Year" write-up reads like a gleeful vindication of the Obama campaign. No really, they use the word "gleeful":
If the Jeep ad was intended to confound the Obama campaign, the reaction was the opposite: gleeful outrage.
Obama’s campaign fired back with its own ad, which crowed that "Chrysler itself has refuted Romney's lie. The truth? Jeep is adding jobs in Ohio." Surrogates on the campaign trail, notably former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden, mocked the ad as audiences roared with laughter.
For the Obama camp, it was a twofer: They got to remind voters in Ohio and all over the country that Romney had opposed the auto bailouts and also portray him as desperate.
Obama himself brought it up in a campaign appearance in Cincinnati the Sunday before the election, casting it as a character issue.
"And so when you’re thinking about this choice, or you’re talking to your friends and neighbors about this choice, you’ve got to remind them it’s not just about policy, it’s also about trust. Who do you trust?"