Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

December 15, 2012

Fact Check: Lie of the Year

Related rulings: Pants on Fire!

Mitt Romney, Monday, Oct. 29th, 2012: Says Barack Obama "sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China" at the cost of American jobs.

It was a lie told in the critical state of Ohio in the final days of a close campaign — that Jeep was moving its U.S. production to China. It originated with a conservative blogger, who twisted an accurate news story into a falsehood. Then it picked up steam when the Drudge Report ran with it. Even though Jeep's parent company gave a quick and clear denial, Mitt Romney repeated it and his campaign turned it into a TV ad.

And they stood by the claim, even as the media and the public expressed collective outrage against something so obviously false.

People often say that politicians don't pay a price for deception, but this time was different: A flood of negative press coverage rained down on the Romney campaign, and he failed to turn the tide in Ohio, the most important state in the presidential election.

PolitiFact has selected Romney's claim that Barack Obama "sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China" at the cost of American jobs as the 2012 Lie of the Year.

It is the fourth year PolitiFact has looked back over a year's worth of political mendacity and selected the most significant falsehood. Last year, it was the claim that Republicans voted to end Medicare. In 2010, it was the claim that the federal health care law was a government takeover of health care. In 2009, it was the claim that the same health law included "death panels." This marks the first year that the Lie of the Year is not about health care — a reflection of the importance of the economy in the 2012 election.

It's not that President Obama and his campaign team were above falsehoods, either. Their TV ads distorted Romney's positions on abortion and immigration to make them seem more extreme than they actually were. A pro-Obama super PAC even created an ad suggesting Romney was responsible for a woman's death when her husband lost his job at a Bain-controlled company.

But the Jeep ad was brazenly false.

It started as a line in a speech about where an American brand of car would be made. It blew up into a lie heard by voters well beyond Ohio.

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