Hours after Gov. Charlie Crist launched a television ad attacking Marco Rubio, the former House speaker responded with a pair of 15-second TV spots to discredit Crist's claims.
The ads -- "Yes," and "Better" -- feature Crist and his now-infamous embrace of President Barack Obama while the two campaigned for the federal stimulus in February 2009. The ads say Crist's attacks are false.
The evidence: A March 13, 2010, Associated Press article. The ads claim that the article labeled Crist's attacks "over the top," "out of context," and "not true."
"Why is a desperate Charlie Crist attacking Marco Rubio?" a narrator asks. "Can't Florida do better?"
We'd expect to hear the phrases "over the top," "out of context," and "not true" from Rubio supporters. But would they come from the AP, a news organization that is well-respected and known for its impartiality?
In this case, yes.
The Associated Press article, written by its Florida political writer Brendan Farrington, appeared in newspapers and on Web sites across the state on March 12 and 13.
The AP sells its content to news organizations across the country. That means Farrington's piece could be edited differently and have a variety of headlines in different publications.
The original story was labeled as an analysis, and it appears most newspapers considered the piece as such. On the Miami Herald's Web site, it ran with the headline, "Analysis: Crist's Rubio attacks often go too far."
The story, which you can read here, highlights six instances where Farrington says Crist's attacks are questionable:
- A suggestion that Rubio may have paid for a back wax with Republican Party of Florida American Express card.
- An accusation that Rubio, while speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, hired 20 aides at $100,000 salaries and spent $500,000 to renovate his office and a cafeteria for legislators.
- The claim that Rubio is a lobbyist.
- The charge that Rubio flip-flopped on whether he would have accepted federal stimulus money.
- Claims about Rubio's spending habits on the state GOP credit card.
- Charges about Rubio's $900,000 family debt.
In the AP story, Farrington makes a case that the accusations require asterisks or are overstatements.
"Crist, who calls himself a 'happy warrior,' still smiles, but he is proving he will throw anything and everything at Rubio to try to win what is becoming one of the closest watched races in the country. Many of Crist's attacks are exaggerated, take words out of context, aren't true or over the top. Rubio has also exaggerated or taken out of context some of Crist's statements or actions, but not to the same extent."
The paragraph, the second in the story, includes each of the phrases Rubio cites in his television ad -- "out of context," "over the top," and "not true" (the actual wording in the article was "aren't true"). It's worth noting that Crist's new TV ad references only two of the six attacks Farrington focused on in the AP article - about spending of GOP political donations and that Rubio was a lobbyist - and it's unclear from the article how Farrington would describe those specific attacks.
In two short television ads, Rubio tries to soften Crist's attacks with the help of the respected and impartial Associated Press. He uses the AP's words correctly to help make his case. We rate his claim True.