A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Context Matters and Mailers Mislead

In episode 21 of FactCheck Radio, we look at the well-known case of USDA employee Shirley Sherrod — an incident that shows, once again, context matters. Plus, we highlight false and misleading claims by President Obama, Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold and his GOP opponent Ron Johnson, and New York Democratic congressional candidate Reshma Saujani.

 
For more on the stories discussed in this episode, see:
Shirley Sherrod’s Contextual Nightmare   July 21
Obama Wrong on GOP, Small Business Criticism  

Whitman: Brown Is Plan-Free

Republican Meg Whitman’s latest ad accuses Democratic rival Jerry Brown of having "no plan" for California should he be elected governor. Brown calls it a "televised lie." We find that Whitman’s ad fudges the facts — but just a little.

The Los Angeles Times vetted this ad quickly, posting its findings July 22. We’ve taken a look as well. Here’s what we found:

Whitman’s claim that Brown has "no plan" is of course an exaggeration.

Let’s Get to Work – On the Facts

Let’s Get to Work, a political committee largely financed by Florida gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott’s wife, is at it again — falsely claiming that Attorney General Bill McCollum used a “chartered airplane” to commute to work and charged taxpayers $280,000. McCollum has access to a state plane, but it’s not true that he uses it to commute. And the amount of money he spent on air travel — all of it involving state business — is exaggerated.

Taxpayer-funded Abortions in High Risk Pools

Q: Will all legal abortions be covered by federally subsidized health insurance policies in state "high-risk pools"?
A: No. The Department of Health and Human Services says the only abortions covered will be those in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is endangered.

Shirley Sherrod’s Contextual Nightmare

We’ve posted no shortage of pieces on political attacks that leave context on the cutting room floor to give the public a misleading impression. An opponent’s statements, cherry-picked and shorn of any language that could provide the intended meaning, can be shaped into a slashing ad.
Or they can lose a woman her job. The latest victim of the missing context trick is U.S. Department of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod. Her story shows the harm that can result from taking something out of context —

Mud and Oil Don’t Mix in Wisconsin Senate Race

With recent polls showing the Wisconsin Senate race tightening, the candidates have started the mudslinging — misrepresenting each other’s positions on drilling for oil in the Great Lakes. Never mind that federal law bans oil drilling in the Great Lakes.
Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold’s ad, “Just Say No,” accuses his GOP opponent Ron Johnson of being “willing to hand over the Great Lakes to the oil companies.” That is misleading, and goes beyond the facts. It’s based on a single interview in which Johnson talks about the need to drill "responsibly"

FactCheck Mailbag, Week of July 13-July 19

This week, readers sent us comments about teacher’s unions, job creation and Meg Whitman’s ads.
In the FactCheck Mailbag, we feature some of the e-mail we receive. Readers can send comments to editor@factcheck.org. Letters may be edited for length.

Obama Wrong on GOP, Small Business Criticism

In his weekly address, President Obama blasted Republicans for using "procedural tactics to block a simple, up-or-down vote" on loan help for small businesses. But that’s false.
Democrats have proposed no such "simple, up-or-down vote" on the small business benefits alone. What Republicans have blocked are votes on extending unemployment benefits, something Democrats once packaged with one part of Obama’s proposals to benefit small business. (And a number of Republicans say they’re not opposed to extending unemployment insurance benefits —

Sunday Replay

We found a larger-than-usual number of deceptions on the Sunday shows this week, from whoppers to cherry-picked statistics, on subjects as diverse as immigration, the Reagan tax cuts and the new health care law. Here’s our rundown.
A Tax Hike for 50 Percent of Small-Business Owners?
On CNN’s "State of the Union," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was wrong when he said that letting the Bush tax cuts expire for upper-income earners would affect "the income of 50 percent of small businesses."

A False Attack on a Palin-backed “Mama Grizzly”

One of Sarah Palin’s annointed "Mama Grizzlies" is under attack in Georgia — for not being conservative enough to suit Republican primary voters. But we find the attack is misleading and makes false claims.
In the race to be governor of Georgia, the Palin-backed candidate is Secretary of State Karen Handel. One of her main opponents in the July 20 GOP primary is Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine. His ad claims that as a Fulton County commissioner Handel presided over spending that "skyrocketed,"