Saturday, December 20th, 2014

Paul Begala says his Romney claim ties to New York Times’ blog post

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is joined by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan at a campaign appearance in Wisconsin.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is joined by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan at a campaign appearance in Wisconsin.

PolitiFact endeavors to hold anyone (or any group) that airs a claim responsible for its veracity. This holds in all circumstances -- ranging, say, from speakers who say they simply repeated what they heard somewhere to those who point to published accounts they consider reliable.

Enter Texan Paul Begala, the former Bill Clinton adviser lately helping a pro-Barack Obama group. Begala recently suggested that Mitt Romney tapped U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin to be his running mate after earlier declaring he’d fare well under Ryan’s proposal for overhauling the federal tax system.

Begala said in a Twitter post: "So THAT'S why he picked him. In Jan. debate Romney said of Ryan tax plan: ‘Under that plan, I’d have paid no taxes in the last two years.’"

Not quite so, we determined.

In the Jan. 23, 2012, Republican presidential debate, Romney made that comment about a tax plan offered by then-candidate Newt Gingrich. In the debate, Romney was referring to part of Gingrich’s plan wiping out the tax on capital gains, interest and dividends. Such a zero-out is also part of Ryan’s plan, but there was no mention of the Ryan plan in the debate (and, more broadly, Romney has said he wants to wipe out the capital gains tax only for Americans earning less than $200,000 a year).

While Begala’s claim has an element of truth, it rates Mostly False.

We did not hear back from Begala in the hours we worked on the fact-check. Butl after its publication, he pointed out that he'd relied on an Aug. 12, 2012, news blog post by the New York Times. The post, centered on Romney’s just-revealed choice of Ryan, includes this: "In addition, the budget Ryan presented to the House in April last year called for the elimination of taxes on capital gains and dividend income. Romney pointed out in a January 2012 debate that ‘Under that plan, I’d have paid no taxes in the last two years.’"

Begala told us his reliance on the blog post shows he "was acting reasonably & in good faith." The Times’ post "may have been wrong, but I had a right to rely" on it "for a tweet."

After his nudge, we amended our story to reflect his basis. Begala did not pull his statement out of the air.

Our rating of his claim remained Mostly False, however. While his statement has an element of truth, it incorrectly suggests Romney referenced Ryan's tax plan in a January debate. We've posted a link to the transcript of the debate with the fact check.