The Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking website PolitiFact — a project of the Tampa Bay Times — has released its annual “Lie of the Year” for 2012. This year, the dubious distinction falls to former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, for an ad falsely claiming that Fiat is moving all of its Jeep production efforts to China.
A ‘Lie of the Year’ in the making
The ad reminds viewers that the Obama Administration, in order to keep Chrysler afloat during bankruptcy, offered it the ultimate “auto refinance loan” in the form of a bailout. That, the ad falsely concludes, led to Americans being squeezed out of auto industry jobs.
The 30-second ad showed a field of crushed car hulks. A voice-over says: “Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China. Mitt Romney will fight for every American job.”
Jeeps is an iconic brand associated with WWII and the American military.
White House and Fiat react
Vice President Joe Biden attacked the ad, saying: “They’re trying to scare the living devil out of a group of people who have been hurt so badly over the last previous four years before we came to office.”
Fiat/Chrysler chairman Sergio Marchionne responded, saying: “I feel obliged to unambiguously restate our position: Jeep production will not be moved from the United States to China. Jeep is one of our truly global brands with uniquely American roots. This will never change.”
Later, the company announced a $240 Million investment into Chrysler’s Detroit and Southeast Michigan plants. It also added 1,250 American workers to those facilities.
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Misinformed blog post picked up
Apparently the snafu occurred when a conservative blogger misconstrued an earlier story about Fiat/Chrysler expanding its production efforts in China. Those efforts involved the building of cars for the Chinese market only. The blogger said Fiat was moving all of its Jeep production to the Asian nation, including those made for U.S. buyers. The Drudge Report ran with the miscast story, and, apparently, so did Romney’s campaign team.
The validity of the that blogger’s report could have been easily debunked by searching the Internet for alternative coverage of the story. The fact that Romney’s camp either failed to check the story or chose to ignore the facts adds credence to PolitiFact’s choice.
The spinner bitten
For once, a “political spin” has spun back around to bite the spinner. Romney received a storm of criticism following the remark. Some analysts believe that backlash may have cost him the key battleground state of Ohio, and in turn, possibly the election.