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Whoops: PolitiFact's 'Lie of the Year' Turns Out to Be True

12:25 PM, Jan 18, 2013 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
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If we're really going to be scrupulous about who we trust, the fact that the "Lie of the Year" is nothing more than sophistry aimed at tearing down a Republican presidential candidate says volumes about PolitiFact's credibility.

UPDATE: Several people have written in to object on the grounds that when the Romney campaign first started making the accusation against Jeep, Mitt Romney said the following in a stump speech, which does muddy the waters a bit:

I 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. I will fight for every good job in America.

Emphasis added. Obviously, when it's framed that way it's not true. However, remove the word "all" from Romney's comment and it's perfectly unobjectionable. (According to CBS News, Romney's inaccurate characterization of what Jeep's move to China may have resulted from a confusingly worder Bloomberg story that was later clarified.)  In fact, after Romney said this, his campaign, while reticent to directly concede that Romney's statement was erroneous, clarified the point they were trying to make:

The campaign did not respond to those questions but insisted that "the larger point that the Gov. made is that rather than creating jobs here, the foreign owner, handpicked by President Obama, is planning to add jobs overseas - which is still true." Romney did not mention the report at a campaign event in Ames, Iowa this afternoon.

In fact, that's exactly the argument that I point out PolitiFact ignored. Further, PolitiFact's "Lie of the Year" is not that Romney lied in his stump speech. PolitiFact knows it's thin gruel to hang their accusation on a single word in a Romney speech. Which is why their headline is "Lie of the Year: the Romney campaign's ad on Jeeps made in China," and that's why I confined my critique to the ad. The ad aired after Romney was called out for his misleading comment and the ad itself is much more carefully worded.

But if we're going to insist that a single stump speech comment is damnable assessment of one's motivations, then here's my nomination for "Lie of the Year":

“Sometimes they just make things up. But they’ve got a bunch of folks who can write $10 million checks, and they’ll just keep on running them,” he said. “I mean, somebody was challenging one of their ads — they made it up — about work and welfare. And every outlet said this is just not true. And they were asked about it and they said — one of their campaign people said, ‘We won’t have the fact-checkers dictate our campaign. We will not let the truth get in the way.’”

Mr. Obama was referring, as many other critics of the Romney campaign have, to a comment that its pollster, Neil Newhouse, made to reporters at the Republican convention on Tuesday, dismissive of those faulting the campaign’s television ads. What Mr. Newhouse actually said was, “These fact-checkers come to those ads with their own sets of thoughts and beliefs. We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.”

Mr. Newhouse did not say, “We will not let the truth get in the way.”

Again, emphasis added. So when a Romney campaign aide quite accurately noted that fact checkers bring "their own sets of thoughts and beliefs" to their critiques, Obama defended fact checkers by lying about what the Romney campaign said in the process of accusing them of lying. Strangely enough, PolitiFact did not bother objecting to the president's dishonesty here.

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