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Misusing Our Name in Virginia

Attention Virginia voters: FactCheck.org has not previously written about House of Delegates candidates Robert Farinholt or Monty Mason. No matter what TV ads, robocalls and campaign mailers say.

Mason and Farinholt are Democratic candidates in Virginia’s 93rd and 94th Statehouse Districts, respectively. We almost never write about state legislative elections, and these races are no exception.

Nevertheless, State Del. David Yancey, a 94th District Republican, claims in a TV ad that FactCheck.org said Farinholt’s attacks “go too far” and are “beyond the facts,” and displays our logo in the bottom right corner of the screen. Similarly, a mailer from the Republican Party of Virginia displays the FactCheck.org logo above the sentence, “Farinholt’s attacks ‘go too far.’ ”

Likewise, Del. Mike Watson, a Republican in the 93rd District, says in a TV ad that we said Mason’s attacks “go too far” and are “beyond the facts.”

But the ads and mailer are wrong. Until now, FactCheck.org had never said anything about either candidate or the issues discussed in either ad.

Misusing Our Work

Here’s what the narrator of the Yancey campaign ad says:

Yancey campaign ad: Robert Farinholt. A dishonest campaign to hide his radical supporters’ vision for Virginia. Ending Virginia’s right-to-work law. Forcing workers to pay union dues to get or keep their job. Drastic cuts to defense spending hurting Newport News. No wonder FactCheck.org says Farinholt’s attacks “go too far” and are “beyond the facts.” Robert Farinholt. The wrong vision for Virginia.

And here’s what the narrator of the Watson campaign ad says:

Watson campaign ad: Monty Mason’s false attacks. FactCheck.org says his attacks “go too far” and are “beyond the facts.” Why is Mason lying? As chair of the Williamsburg Economic Development Authority, Monty Mason promised to promote small business. Instead, Mason spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars, and unemployment in Williamsburg rates second highest in the state. Monty Mason. A campaign of lies to hide his failed record.

We said no such thing.

We never wrote about Farinholt, his supporters or the state’s right-to-work laws. Nor did we write about Mason, his record on small business or local unemployment rates.

What We Did Say

What’s going on?

We contacted the campaigns of both Republican candidates and got a response from Matthew Moran, a spokesman for Republican Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell. Moran said he was asked by the Yancey and Watson campaigns to speak on their behalf.

Moran cited our Sept. 19 story about the Virginia governor’s race. In that story, we said Terry McAuliffe’s TV ad “goes a bit too far” and “goes beyond the facts.” The McAuliffe ad — and our story — was about Republican Ken Cuccinelli’s position on abortion, a subject not even mentioned in the TV ads aired by Yancey and Watson.

Moran emailed us the following statement on behalf of the Yancey and Watson campaigns:

Moran, Oct. 24: Factcheck.org and other independent news sources have ruled that identical claims in other races are “beyond the facts,” “mostly false” and “go too far.”  Monty Mason, Robert Farinholt and Democrats all across Virginia are making the exact same claims using the exact same language so it’s no stretch to conclude that their claims are likewise “beyond the facts,” “mostly false” and “go too far.”

But it’s not true that Farinholt and Mason are “making the exact same claims” and “using the exact same language” that we fact-checked in our article.

Moran gave us campaign mailers authorized by the Farinholt campaign that say “Yancey voted to outlaw abortion, even in the cases of rape and incest.” He also cited a Mason TV ad that said Mike Watson “voted to ban abortion with no exceptions, even for rape and incest.”

However, we didn’t fact-check a claim that Cuccinelli “voted” to “outlaw abortion” or “ban abortion” with no exceptions for rape or incest.

We fact-checked a claim that Cuccinelli “wants to make all abortion illegal. Even in cases of rape and incest. Even to protect a woman’s health.” Cuccinelli is a strong opponent of abortion. He opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest, as the McAuliffe ad says. But we also wrote that the ad “goes a bit too far” when it says that Cuccinelli wants to make “all abortion” illegal, because Cuccinelli has said that “he supports an exception to save the life of the mother.”

In our article, we quoted Harvard Law School Professor I. Glenn Cohen as saying that Cuccinelli’s support for an HB 1 “personhood bill” in Virginia is “not necessarily inconsistent” with his support for an exception to save the life of the mother. And that’s the bill cited by the opponents of Yancey and Watson in their ads and mailers.

But we researched Cuccinelli’s past statements and legislative record on the issue of abortion, and we looked at the narrow issue of whether he could support both the “personhood bill” and an exception for the mother’s life. We did not do the same for Yancey or Watson, and their campaigns should stop saying that we did.

— D’Angelo Gore

Update, Oct. 31: After we published this item, we learned that Virginia Del. Tag Greason also has been misusing FactCheck.org’s story about the Virginia governor’s race to defend himself against attacks from Democrat Elizabeth Miller.

A mailer authorized by Greason, a Republican in the 32nd District, displays the FactCheck.org logo above the statement: “Liz Miller should be ashamed. FactCheck.org says these false attacks go ‘too far’ and are ‘beyond the facts.’ ” The Greason mailer superimposes a “false” stamp over a claim in a Miller campaign mailer that said: “When Tag Greason voted for the most extreme attacks on women’s health care, I knew I had to do something.” That’s her opinion, and it’s not even suitable for a fact-check — if we were in the business of fact-checking state House races (and we’re not).

Before this item was published, we had never written about any of the attacks from the candidates for House of Delegates. And we do not intend to write anything else going forward.