Pants on Fire!
Says Marcy Kaptur has attacked his military service and training in the Air Force, showing disrespect for veterans.

Samuel Wurzelbacher on Thursday, May 3rd, 2012 in a news release

Samuel 'Joe the Plumber' Wurzelbacher says Marcy Kaptur disrespects his and other veterans' military service

Soon after his 2008 televised tax policy confrontation with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama made Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher a focus of presidential campaign rhetoric,  Wurzelbacher made the wrenching discovery that notoriety can bring scrutiny.

Not a week passed before media across the country were reporting that Wurzelbacher lacks a plumbing license. Wurzelbacher told his hometown newspaper, the Toledo Blade, that he was working under the plumbing license of his employer, A. W. Newell Corp., and was allowed to do so as long as the licensed contractor was working on the same site.

The newspaper said that Wurzelbacher is "not registered to operate as a plumber in Ohio, which means he is not a plumber."

Now Wurzelbacher is the GOP candidate for a congressional seat currently occupied by Toledo Democrat Marcy Kaptur, and Kaptur’s campaign has flushed out the old reports about Wurzelbacher’s lack of plumbing credentials.

For months, Kaptur’s team has told reporters that  Wurzelbacher isn’t a plumber, a charge that doesn’t sit well with Wurzelbacher. That has prompted Wurzelbacher to claim that Kaptur is disrespecting his military service and training in the Air Force, showing disrespect for veterans.  

Wurzelbacher plunged forward with that line of attack in a news release May 3 in which his campaign urged Kaptur to support a bill sponsored by Columbus-area GOP Rep. Steve Stivers, which would require states to consider military training when certifying truck drivers, registered nurses and emergency medical technicians. Stivers’ bill would not affect plumbers. The news release charged that "Marcy has recently been attacking Joe’s military service and his training in the Air Force."

In April 2012 published a column by Wurzelbacher titled "Why Doesn’t Marcy Kaptur Respect Veterans?" In his essay, Wurzelbacher said that Kaptur’s proposal for a Veterans Jobs Corps to employ 20,000 veterans in projects to restore public lands, would reject their military training and instead "turn them into federally employed landscapers and groundskeepers."

"Kaptur and her campaign staff certainly don’t respect my own military training," Wurzelbacher’s column continued. "That’s obvious from the way they call me a ‘faux’ plumber. Are all our other veterans ‘fake’ in their jobs, too? Marcy’s campaign has denied my military experience several times before, each time proving that she and her staff don’t respect veterans and our military experience."

Wurzelbacher’s campaign put out a news release in October 2011 titled "Marcy Kaptur Disrespects Service of Military Veteran." Although Kaptur and her campaign spokesman Steve Fought hadn’t ever mentioned Wurzelbacher’s military record in questioning his lack of plumbing credentials, the news release accused the pair of "maligning" Wurzelbacher’s "record of military service and hard work." It said Wurzelbacher learned to be a plumber during a four year Air Force stint, and that he "legally worked as a plumber for numerous plumbing companies in the Toledo area" after leaving the military.

In a series of email exchanges, Wurzelbacher’s campaign did not provide instances in which Kaptur and Fought specifically maligned their candidate’s military service, apart from claiming that he isn’t actually a plumber. They contend that by saying Wurzelbacher isn’t a plumber, Fought and Kaptur are saying that his training is non-existent or inadequate. And because Wurzelbacher got that training in the Air Force, Wurzelbacher’s camp contends that claiming Wurzelbacher isn’t a plumber constitutes an attack on his military training.

Although Kaptur and Fought have repeatedly denied that Wurzelbacher’ is a plumber, they haven’t alluded to his military service or training in any interviews with The Plain Dealer since Wurzelbacher announced his candidacy last year. We did not find that they’d issued comments of that nature to other media outlets.

"I never said anything about military service not qualifying him to be a plumber," said Fought. "It has to do with his licensure. A plumber is someone who has a license. Otherwise, he is just an average homeowner trying to get that snake down there. He says he learned how to do it in the military, but this has nothing to do with the military. It has everything to do with the fact that he doesn’t have a plumber’s license."

Ohio’s Department of Commerce confirmed that Wurzelbacher does not have a state plumbing contractor’s license. Toledo’s chief plumbing inspector, Joe Romp, said his city hasn’t issued a plumbing license, either.

Becoming a plumber in Ohio, Romp said, requires completion of a three to five year apprenticeship, which includes classroom training and passing a rigorous test. Romp said Wurzelbacher would not be permitted to do plumbing work in Toledo itself because he is not officially a plumbing apprentice, journeyman or contractor.

"You could get a handyman to install a water heater or change out a toilet, but is he going to call himself a plumber based on that?" asked Romp. "Hardly."

In parts of Lucas County such as Holland Township, where Wurzelbacher resides, people without plumbing licenses are allowed to work on plumbing jobs as long as they are supervised by a state-licensed contractor, said Lucas County permit specialist Gail Nix. Wurzelbacher worked in that  capacity while employed by A. W. Newell Corp.

We’re not making the final call on whether Wurzelbacher should call himself "Joe the Plumber."

Wurzelbacher’s campaign cites his work as an Air Force plumber from 1992 to 1996. But since leaving the military he has not secured a civilian plumbing license. Plenty of other professions - such as commercial truck driving - require people with military training to secure a civilian license before they can ply their trade. That’s the basis for the Kaptur campaign’s criticism.

But questioning his licensure credentials is a far cry from impugning Wurzelbacher’s military service. Training in the military aside, Ohio requires a plumber to have a license, which Wurzelbacher does not have.

Given that is the case, we think it’s beyond False to say that claiming he is not a plumber somehow diminishes his military experience and shows disrespect for veterans, as Wurzelbacher claimed.

On the Truth-O-Meter, Wurzelbacher’s claim rates Pants on Fire.