(Published Oct. 15, 2008)
One of the more pointed exchanges between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain in the third and final debate on Oct. 15, 2008, was over the topic of negative ads.
Here’s how one exchange went:
Obama: "And 100 percent, John, of your ads — 100 percent of them have been negative."
McCain: "It’s not true."
Obama: "It absolutely is true."
(You can find the exchange on the YouTube version about 26:30 into the debate.)
Obama appears to be cherry-picking the ads run during a single week — from Sept. 28 to Oct. 4 — during which the Wisconsin Advertising Project found "nearly all" of McCain’s ads were negative. That week, they found that 34 percent of Obama’s ads were negative.
But McCain has aired many, many ads that were not negative. If you look at a report from the same organization on Sept. 17, they found that in the week after the conventions, for example, Obama aired a higher percentage of negative ads than did McCain (76 percent to 56 percent).
In all, the Wisconsin Advertising Project has found that 73 percent of McCain’s ads have been negative, to date. That's far short of 100 percent. (It also found 61 percent of Obama’s ads have been negative.)
That’s up for both parties from the 2004 election, when 64 percent of George Bush’s ads were negative, compared to 34 percent of John Kerry’s.
So Obama might be right for one week, but he is way off for the overall campaign, when McCain's negative ads accounted for 73 percent. That's so far off that we find it Pants on Fire wrong.