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Sanders Adviser Makes False Claim

A senior adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders said that Sanders’ presidential campaign has “never” used Hillary Clinton’s “image or her name in an ad.” That’s false.

In early March, the Sanders campaign announced the release of a radio ad in Michigan that referred to his “opponent” in the Democratic primary. And another version of the ad, which aired on radio stations in at least North Carolina, specifically referred to Clinton by name. The radio ads pushed back against Clinton’s misleading claim that Sanders was “against the auto bailout” in 2009.

Tad Devine, a senior strategist for the Sanders campaign, made the claim during an April 4 interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. Mitchell asked Devine about a New York Times article that suggested that Sanders, who pledged early in his campaign not to go negative against Clinton, should’ve been more willing to attack her on various issues. Devine said that Sanders would stick to drawing a contrast between himself and Clinton on the issues, but would not resort to outright attacks on subjects such as her emails as secretary of state or the Clinton Foundation. (At 2:30 in the video.)

Devine, April 4: We’re simply not going to talk about some of these things because they’re not issues that matter to voters. They’re not the debate that we need to have. There are real differences on campaign finance, on issues like fracking. There are real differences and he will talk about those issues, but he’s not going to attack her personally. We’ve never put her image or her name in an ad and I’m sure we never will.

But that last part, about “never” putting Clinton’s name in an ad, isn’t accurate.

During the March 6 Democratic debate, Clinton accused Sanders of being “against the auto bailout” in 2009. Her campaign also released a radio ad that claimed she was the “one candidate” to support President Obama’s efforts to help the auto industry.

We called her claim “quite a stretch” in our debate analysis, and noted that Sanders supported a $15 billion package of aid to the auto industry that passed the House on Dec. 10, 2008, but failed to receive a final vote on the Senate floor. In fact, Sanders voted to bring the auto bailout bill to the floor for a final vote, but the motion failed to receive the necessary 60 votes. That was before Sanders voted on Jan. 15, 2009, for a resolution blocking the Treasury Department from accessing the second half of a $700 billion Wall Street bailout package, which Sanders didn’t support. A small part of that $350 billion — $4 billion — was earmarked for the auto industry.

On March 7, the Sanders campaign announced that it was releasing a radio ad in Michigan “responding to Hillary Clinton’s dishonest and negative attack on his support in 2008 for an automobile industry rescue package.”

The radio ad’s narrator says: “Bernie voted for the auto rescue package. … But, Washington has always had a funny relationship with the truth. So it’s not surprising his opponent is out with a new radio ad trying to distort the truth about Bernie’s record.” The narrator then goes on to quote part of a Washington Post article that said Clinton’s claim “glosses over a lot … including the fact that Sanders is actually on the record as supporting the auto bailout. He even voted for it.”

But while that radio ad only referred to Sanders’ “opponent,” another version of the ad mentioned Clinton by name.

The other radio ad, which included much of the same language, has the narrator quoting from the headline of an article by a Forbes magazine contributor. “Forbes said it pretty plainly, quote, Clinton’s charge is wrong, unquote,” the narrator says.

That radio ad aired in North Carolina, Ohio and Illinois, according to the Clinton campaign, which provided us audio of the alternate version.

So the Sanders campaign has used Clinton’s name in at least one version of a radio ad, even though it was in response to an attack on him.

We asked the Sanders campaign about the radio ad and Devine’s claim, but we haven’t received a response.

Negative TV Ads

The Clinton campaign has previously raised concerns about TV ads that it said broke Sanders’ pledge not to go negative against Clinton.

In mid-January, the Clinton campaign took issue with a Sanders TV ad called “Two Visions.” The ad doesn’t show or mention Clinton, but Sanders, talking straight to the camera, says, “there are two Democratic visions for regulating Wall Street. One says it’s O.K. to take millions from big banks and then tell them what to do.” He then goes on to explain how his approach to Wall Street will be different. “Break up the big banks, close tax loopholes, and make them pay their fair share,” he says.

The Clinton campaign saw the ad as making a jab at her, but Sanders and his campaign said that wasn’t the case.

Then, in late January, the Sanders campaign released the TV ad “The Problem,” which the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake wrote about in a post titled “Bernie Sanders’s silly Clinton-less Clinton attack ad.”

The ad’s narrator says Goldman Sachs was “one of the Wall Street banks that triggered the financial meltdown” but “just settled with authorities for their part in the crisis that put seven million out of work and millions out of their homes.” The narrator then asks, “How does Wall Street get away with it?” The answer, according to the narrator, “millions in campaign contributions and speaking fees.”

To Blake, it was clear that the ad was referring to Clinton, even though her image wasn’t featured and her name was never mentioned.

Blake, Jan. 28: It’s clear as day what’s going on here. Sanders doesn’t want to be seen as directly attacking Clinton. It doesn’t fit with his political brand. So instead, he simply mentions the things that have been part of his more-direct attacks on Clinton on the campaign trail (which is apparently where this stuff is okay — just not on TV). Specifically: Wall Street, and how it eludes regulation and rigs the system with campaign contributions and with exorbitant speaking fees. So who has Sanders attacked on the campaign trail for her Wall Street support and speaking fees? We’ll give you one guess.

We take no position on the TV ads and whether they were attacks on Clinton or not. But there is no debate that the radio ads we mentioned made clear references to Clinton.