“Black Friday weekend sales soar 13 percent to $59B” – Boston Herald
During election season, that Claim Check logo up above usually indicated another politician flooding the airwaves with another questionable ad. But with the votes tallied, we return to using Claim Check to analyze – and occasionally debunk – claims found in the media, in scientific studies and in the wilds of the Web.
Today, we’re piggy-backing on excellent work done by Barry Ritholtz, CEO of Fusion IQ, who writes the popular financial blog, “The Big Picture.” For years, Ritholtz has pleaded with the media to report skeptically on Black Friday sales projections made by the National Retail Federation. He’s made inroads, but plenty of work remains.
The Boston Herald headline above is representative of stories that appeared in hundreds of media outlets. But don’t believe it. Continue reading
During the budget battles in Washington in the spring of 2011, a liberal group produced an ad featuring an elderly woman in a wheelchair being pushed through a park by a man in a suit and tie, while America the Beautiful plays in the background and words on the screen tout the Medicare program. But the placid scene takes a decidedly sinister turn, as the on-screen narration states that “Republicans now want to privatize Medicare.” Suddenly, the man in the suit veers off the path, wheels the distressed woman toward a rocky overlook, and dumps her off a cliff.
OK, so perhaps nothing in Connecticut this political season went that completely over the edge. But in the bruising Senate race between Democrat Chris Murphy and Republican Linda McMahon, there were certainly moments when honesty and accuracy went on holiday as the candidates scraped for every vote. With the election a few days away, here’s a recap of some of the claims made during the race. Continue reading
There is something of a hierarchy in political ad nastiness.
The tamest ads – and yes, this is entirely relative – typically come from the candidates themselves, who have at least a modest disinclination to appear overly vicious.
Ads from political parties push the envelope a little farther, taking on topics or themes the candidates may be reluctant to directly address.
And then there are the PACs, which work independently of the candidates – at least officially – and which show little hesitation to get in the mud and start slinging it around.
That’s what we see in a new ad from a pair of PACs opposing Linda McMahon’s candidacy for U.S. Senate. The 30-second spot takes a line McMahon said during a candidate’s forum last April, and twists it to create a narrative that doesn’t exist in support of a political charge that has no base. Continue reading
If there is one topic on which the candidates for U.S. Senate in Connecticut have most consistently confused voters, it is the issue of federal income taxes. And Republican Linda McMahon continues that trend with a television ad revisiting familiar ground on taxes as well as job creation.
“On key issues, compare the candidates,” the narrator instructs. “On cutting middle-class taxes, Linda McMahon’s plan saves the average Connecticut family $500 a month. But Congressman Chris Murphy voted to raise middle-class taxes three times.”
We’ve evaluated — and challenged — the first part of that assertion multiple times, but the campaign continues to make the claim, albeit with slight modifications. For the record, under no scenario does McMahon’s plan save the average Connecticut family $500 a month, and there are two flaws with the campaign’s calculation. Continue reading
In her first run for the Senate two years ago, polls showed Republican Linda McMahon fared particularly poorly with women, trailing opponent Richard Blumenthal by as much as 25 points. That gap has virtually vanished this time around, which likely explains a new ad from Democrat Chris Murphy, taking shots at McMahon’s business and political relationship with women.
“As CEO, Linda McMahon demeaned women to make millions in her business,” says a woman in the ad, followed by another who goes on to accuse McMahon of “targeting children with violent images and toys.”
On the political side, the ad states that McMahon “would support a Republican proposal that would allow my employer to deny me coverage for contraception.” The ad then makes a more specific claim, stating that McMahon “will deny coverage for mammograms.”
That last line is where the ad gets in trouble. But let’s start with the business accusations. Continue reading
When our Claim Check columns run in this space, we often distinguish between verifiable assertions of fact, and statements that are purely subjective or amount to advertising puffery and which are not subject to fact-checking.
Political candidates, however, don’t always make that distinction, as evidenced by a letter from the campaign of Steve Obsitnik, challenger in the 4th Congressional District, objecting to a television ad run by incumbent Jim Himes.
“Without a doubt, the advertisement contains false information deliberately intended to mislead Connecticut voters,” John Puskar, Obsitnik’s campaign manager, wrote this morning to the parent company of News12 Connecticut. “Because the advertisement conveys messages that are plainly disproven by fact, we respectfully demand that your station immediately stop airing the advertisement.” Continue reading
When political candidates find themselves in hot water, they occasionally retreat to bunker mode, declining to talk about the controversy any further and wagering that silence will ultimately make the story run its course sooner. That, of course, provides a big opening to opponents to hammer away with questions about the politician’s conduct and character.
But having questions is not the same thing as having answers. And that distinction is highlighted by a pair of ads from Linda McMahon’s Senate campaign that focus on a home-equity line of credit her challenger Chris Murphy received 16 months after being sued for missing payments on his mortgage. One of the ads fairly raises questions about the circumstances of the home loan, while the other makes factual assertions of wrongdoing that the McMahon campaign cannot at this point support. Continue reading
Chris Murphy’s drastically out-financed bid for U.S. Senate is enjoying fresh reinforcements from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which has committed $320,000 in advertising aimed at Murphy’s opponent, Linda McMahon.
What does this mean for voters? Well, this morning it meant not one, but two new attack ads on the airwaves. One is from the national committee; the other directly from Murphy. Both take on past targets, criticizing McMahon’s record as CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment as well as the details of her income tax plan. And both repeat statements likely to confuse viewers. Continue reading
UPDATE, 9/12/2012: In the blog post below, we weigh in on a Spanish-language ad in which the McMahon campaign claims her tax plan will save “many Connecticut families” $500 a month. The savings figure requires more disclosure than the ad provides, but we did deem the phrase “many Connecticut families” less problematic than an earlier ad, which claimed that the $500 savings would be achieved by “the average Connecticut family.” That assertion is not supported by Census figures on average family income.
But this morning, the McMahon campaign aired an English-language version of portions of the Spanish ad, and “muchas familias” has morphed back to “an average Connecticut family.” For the reasons explained in our Claim Check of the original McMahon campaign ad, it is misleading, however the numbers are calculated, to assert that under McMahon’s tax plan, the savings for an average Connecticut family would be $500.
All signs suggest we’re in for two months of withering on-air feuding in the race for Connecticut’s U.S. Senate seat, with Republican Linda McMahon and Democrat Chris Murphy trading jabs at a blurring pace. That can make it tough to remember which claims are legitimate and which are on shaky grounds. So to help you keep up with the whirlwind of boasts and accusations, we’re going to combine two fact-checks into one here, looking briefly at ads containing assertions that each camp has made before. One relates to McMahon’s tax plan; the other to Murphy’s defense of his committee work. Neither gets high marks for accuracy. Continue reading
Flip on the TV these days and it seems like every channel is airing the fierce cage match between Linda McMahon and Chris Murphy. It remains to be seen if either candidate is bruised by the slugfest, but there’s little question that accuracy in political ads has taken a few body slams.
In this column, we’ll break down a McMahon spot that revisits earlier attacks on Murphy’s attendance record at committee hearings and accuses the three-term congressman of voting to cut Medicare and raise taxes on the middle class.
Is it true? Depends how far you’re willing to stretch the language. Continue reading