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
While Chris Murphy and Linda McMahon ran away with their respective primary wins in this year’s U.S. Senate race, the general election promises to be much, much closer. And if history is a guide, that means we may see plenty of ads on the airwaves for the next couple months that skate mighty close to – and occasionally over – the edge of accuracy.
That, anyway, is the case with the latest ad from Murphy, the Democratic candidate, which stretches language to make points about McMahon’s business record and political platform.
The ad, titled “McMahon’s WWE Record Exposed,” begins with a pointed look at McMahon’s tenure as CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, the successful if tacky enterprise that made her a multi-millionaire. But rather than focusing on the crass programming as past political foes have, Murphy takes aim at McMahon’s business decisions, saying her plan for the company included using offshore bank accounts (which the ad illustrates with an image of palm trees on a beach) in order to “shift profits overseas to avoid U.S. taxes.” The ad also says McMahon had a plan to deny employees health and disability insurance coverage to boost profits.
Neither claim is completely accurate. Continue reading
Now that we’re a solid week past the U.S. Senate primary, the two winners have had a chance to shake off their brief victory dances and get down to the business of airing nasty ads about each other.
Linda McMahon, the Republican candidate, was first out of the gate, with a spot asserting that U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy, her Democratic opponent, “didn’t show up for the job you paid him to do.” Now Murphy has responded with an ad titled “That’s Real” in which he states: “Linda McMahon will do and say anything to get ahead.”
Those are perhaps the most memorable lines in each ad, and surely the pitches that most raise the ire of the target’s supporters. But as eyebrow-raising as they may be, those lines are mere noise for fact-checkers – worthy of note to gauge the tone of the campaign, but in the end, subjective assertions that do not lend themselves to verification or negation. Continue reading
Years ago, I attended the annual conference of the Electronic Retailing Association – the fancy name the infomercial people gave themselves – and learned that when you’ve got 30 seconds to work with, the most successful pitches often ask viewers a simple and direct question with an obvious answer.
Linda McMahon, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, is advertising something far more consequential than egg peelers and Ginsu knives, but she utilizes the same direct approach in her latest ad, which targets Democrat Chris Murphy’s attendance record at Congressional hearings.
“If you skipped 80 percent of the meetings for your job, would you get a promotion?” a narrator asks rhetorically at the very opening of the ad, in a reference to Murphy’s bid to move from the House of Representatives to the Senate.
“During America’s financial crisis, Chris Murphy served on two committees trying to avoid a financial meltdown,” the narrator continues. “But Murphy skipped nearly 80 percent of those urgent hearings.”
To drive home the point, the ad shows a hearing room with an empty chair behind a nameplate reading “Mr. Murphy.” Continue reading
For the past decade, candidates for federal office have been required by law to take personal responsibility for their political ads, which now often close with cheery proclamations that “I approved this message.” The rule was put in place partly in an effort to rein in the vitriol in attack ads, figuring candidates might think twice about running negative spots that would end with their personal endorsement of the nasty message.
So was that the demise of negative advertising? Of course not. Instead, campaigns about to launch an attack have simply moved the candidate’s personal disclosure to the beginning of the ad, where it’s less likely to resonate once the guns start blazing. That is the case with a new spot from Democrat Elizabeth Esty, taking aim at the well-financed candidacy of Dan Roberti, one of Esty’s two opponents in the Democratic primary race for the fifth Congressional District seat. The ad, titled “It’s a Mess,” takes generic swipes at Roberti, saying he would make Washington worse and is already part of what’s wrong with national politics.
Those are statements of opinion and not subject to fact-checking. But the spot also makes four specific assertions about Roberti and his campaign. It claims that Roberti has no work history in Connecticut, that he is the co-owner of a “powerful Washington special-interest lobbying firm,” that clients of that firm are “bankrolling” his campaign, and that those same lobbyist clients have funded a Super PAC supporting his campaign. There is at least a partial factual foundation for all of those claims. But the ad stretches the typical definition of “bankrolling” to the point that it could mislead viewers, and there is a potentially important element left out of the assertion on the Super PAC. Combined, those issues keep the ad from earning a higher rating.
Let’s take the claims one-by-one. Continue reading
When sitting legislators run for office, it’s always fair game for their opponents to point out the conflict of interest between a politician’s thirst for campaign cash and his or her role in passing or blocking legislation. But there is a difference between highlighting potential conflicts and declaring that a legislator actively intervened on behalf of a contributor. Make that latter charge without the goods to back it up, and you’re going to have some trouble with the Claim Check needle. Continue reading