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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Halter Questioned On Misleading TV Ad

In an MSNBC interview today — the day of the June 8 Democratic primary runoff in Arkansas — Lt. Gov. Bill Halter was questioned about a TV ad that we here at FactCheck.org said made misleading claims about Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s position on Social Security cuts.

MSNBC reporter Andrea Mitchell, who interviewed Halter, called the ad "the biggest controversy right now." Mitchell showed a clip of "Pauline," which features an elderly woman claiming that Lincoln has threatened to cut Medicare and Social Security if re-elected. "FactCheck.org, among other critics, say that this is very misleading," Mitchell said to Halter. "That you have spliced together, in this ad, different answers from Blanche Lincoln and that she never specifically talked about cutting Social Security or Medicare."

Halter said it is "just not true" that Lincoln’s comments were taken out of context. "You can look at the full transcript of the last debate we had and you can see that that is essentially what she said. She wanted to look at cuts in Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid." There is no official transcript of the debate on the site of the Clinton School Speaker Series, the host of the debate. But we transcribed the section of the debate in question, which can be found in our analysis of the ad. In the debate, Lincoln talked about cutting other, unnamed programs to reduce the debt and looking for "greater efficiencies" in entitlement programs — including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — not cutting them.

Mitchell echoed our point when she said: "Isn’t there a difference between saying that she would look at the whole area of entitlements in the debate, and saying, as it says in your ad, that she ‘supports more tax cuts for millionaires while cutting Social Security’? She hasn’t talked about cutting Social Security."

Joe Scarborough, the host of MSNBC’s "Morning Joe," also talked about the ad on his show earlier in the day. "That Halter ad was just a cheap, cheap shot," said Scarborough, a former Republican congressman. "That ad is why we have the Social Security and Medicare crisis we have and why this country’s going bankrupt. So, congratulations for scaring senior citizens, Bill Halter." As his campaign did when we asked about the ad, Halter also cited Lincoln’s voting record in his interview with Mitchell — specifically Lincoln’s vote for a 1994 budget amendment that would have forced reductions in the future growth of Social Security and other entitlement programs, under certain conditions. That amendment failed and the cuts never happened.

— by Melissa Siegel