Fact-checkers lie

Oh good grief; the Politifact spin artists are saying that Paul Ryan’s story about the Janesville GM plant (Obama said he’d keep it open for 100 years, but it lasted less than one year) is false because: (1) it closed under Bush, and (2) Obama never promised he would keep it open anyway.

Nonsense. The plant closed April 23, 2009. (Via Stephen Gutowski.) And as far as Obama’s promise goes, he said:

And I believe that if our government is there to support you, and give you the assistance you need to re-tool and make this transition, that this plant will be here for another hundred years.

Okay, according to a very narrow reading, he never promised to keep it open, he only said that he believed that his policies would keep it open. That’s a pretty thin reed on which to call Ryan’s comment false.

Except it’s even worse than that. In fact, Ryan quoted him accurately:

Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said, “I believe that if our government is there to support you, this plant will be here for another 100 years.”

Put in an ellipsis, and that’s a verbatim quote. Ryan did not misrepresent Obama at all, even in the utterly insubstantial way that Politifact suggests.

Moreover, Politifact’s shtick is various different grades of truth or falsehood. But they didn’t grade Ryan’s 100% accurate claim as “mostly true” or even “half true”; they go all the way to an unmodified “false”. Even if there were some wiggle room here for Politifact to work with, which I don’t see, there’s no way to get all the way to “false”. They’re lying; plain and simple.

UPDATE: Further, David Freddoso points out that Ryan never said the plant closed under Obama. That’s true, but since the plant actually did close under Obama, it’s not a critical point.

Also, the Obama campaign claims that the plant was “slated” to close during the Bush administration. If true, that wouldn’t change anything: Obama knew the plant was in trouble when he delivered his not-quite-a-promise, but a planned closure can be reversed if times improve and that was the hope he held out for Janesville. (Indeed, a idled plant can be re-opened.) But, moreover, depending on how you define “slated” (their whole argument is one of semantics), the claim isn’t even true. Although the plant had been on the chopping block for some time, its final closure was announced February 18, 2009.

UPDATE: Indeed:

What I really like is how the Leftist media is pretending it knows more about a GM plant in Paul Ryan’s HOMETOWN than Paul Ryan does.

UPDATE: MSNBC’s “fact-checker” Ezra Klein (who used to run a discussion group for journalists to coordinate the liberal spin in their reporting) offers this:

Ryan says it had not yet shut down Obama was elected, that Janesville was “about to” lose the factory at the time of the election. This is false, as Ryan knew in 2008 when he issued a statement bemoaning the plant’s closing.

Either Klein never read the page he linked to, or he hopes that no one clicks through. Anyone who did click through found that Ryan’s statement said this:

Following the announcement by General Motors that it planned to close its Janesville plant by 2010, U.S. Senators Russ Feingold and Herb Kohl and Representative Paul Ryan sent a letter to General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner asking him to reconsider the decision. . .

(Emphasis mine.) Exactly as Ryan said — and Klein contradicts — the plant was going to close but hadn’t yet. Bogus “fact-checking” is a plague on our body politic, but Klein has invented a new genre: the self-refuting bogus fact-check. Bravo! (UPDATE: Ezra Klein demonstrates how not to correct your mistakes.)

UPDATE: Here’s GM:

Janesville was placed on standby capacity in May 2009 and will remain in that status.

(Via Phil Kerpen.)

UPDATE: I’ve been focusing on the outright lies, but it’s also worth taking a note of the misdirection. Obama and his media allies are complaining than Ryan is unfairly blaming Obama for the plant’s closure. That would be unfair, if Ryan had said that, but he didn’t. Everyone knows that GM has been in trouble for years, and no one blames Obama for GM’s woes in 2008-2009. (Post-bailout is another matter!)

Ryan’s point, with Obama and his allies are trying to obscure, is simply this: The Janesville plant was in trouble. Obama told the worried people of Janesville that his policies would fix the problem. They didn’t.

This is just one example — a personal example from Ryan’s home town — of how Obama promised a bright tomorrow (“hope and change”) but failed to deliver.

It’s valuable to get the particulars right, since the left is lying about the particulars, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the key point.

UPDATE: More here.

UPDATE: Dear ABC: when you correct the factual errors in your article, it’s good form to correct the headline too.

Since this is apparently not just Politifact’s hackery, but the entire left’s main attack on Ryan’s speech, I’ve changed the title.

UPDATE: It turns out that GM considered re-opening the plant, but did not, at a time when the government was running the show, so you actually can blame Obama for the plant remaining closed if you want to. Fine, but that’s not really the point. The point is that Obama said he could turn around the auto manufacturing industry so that Janesville and plants like it would stay open, and he failed.

Also, in case there’s still any confusion about when the plant closed, there’s this video from April 2009:

UPDATE: A detailed chronology here.

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