Sunday, September 21st, 2014

Half-truths fill the air

A Mitt Romney ad says "Obama could have stopped China's cheating."

When people think of our fact-checking of campaign ads, they often focus on our False and Pants on Fire ratings.

But lately we've been giving a lot of Half True ratings to campaign ads. It's a reminder that not every ad is filled with Pants-on-Fire falsehoods. We find that many ads have some underlying truth that has simply been stretched or twisted.

Half True ratings account for 22 percent of all PolitiFact National ratings, but they account for 32 percent of our ratings on ads. (False/Pants on Fire ratings account for 29 percent overall and 18 percent for ads.)

A few recent examples:

* A Barack Obama ad on Mitt Romney's Medicare plan. It says that Obama "will protect your guaranteed benefits" while "Romney would take away Medicare as guaranteed benefits." We rated it Half True because there is some possibility that Romney's Medicare plan -- which is pretty sketchy at this point -- could lead to changes in benefits. But it's also incorrect to suggest that Obama's plan has guarantees because Congress can change them at any time.

* A Romney ad on Obama's trade policy with China. The ad says that "Seven times Obama could have stopped China's cheating. Seven times, he refused." That earned a Half True because we concluded that while Obama has chosen not to act on currency manipulation, he has taken action on trade in other ways.

* Obama's ad on Romney and Paul Ryan's position on abortion. It says Romney and Ryan "both backed proposals that would outlaw abortions even in cases of rape or incest." It earned a Half True because while it is accurate for Ryan, that is not Romney's position.