For weeks, Sen. Barack Obama has been quoting Sen. Hillary Clinton as saying that the North American Free Trade Agreement had been a "boon" to the U.S. economy.
He used the phrase in a recent mailing to voters in Ohio (the headline said Hillary Clinton believed NAFTA was 'a boon' to our economy"), and he used it in a Jan. 21, 2008, debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
"I know that Hillary on occasion has said — just last year said this (NAFTA) was a boon to the economy," Obama said. "I think it has been devastating, because our trade agreements did not have labor standards and environmental standards that would assure that workers in the U.S. were getting a square deal."
We addressed the controversy over the "boon" when he made the remark in the debate (we said it was False), but we're addressing it again now because it has become an issue in the Ohio primary, and the source of the phrase — Newsday — has recently said the word did not come from Clinton.
Obama's charge is designed to stoke suspicions among liberals and labor leaders that Clinton is in the thrall of big-business Democrats who served in her husband's administration, such as former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, chairman of Citigroup Inc., and ex-Deputy Treasury Secretary Roger Altman, her top economic adviser.
Indeed, Sen. Clinton energetically promoted NAFTA in the past, thanking corporations for furthering its goals during an address to the 1998 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and adding, "It is certainly clear that we have not by any means finished the job that has begun."
But Obama is wrong that Clinton said NAFTA was a "boon."
The Obama campaign got that phrase from an issues summary in the Sept. 11, 2006, edition of Newsday in which the Long Island newspaper, in its own words, stated that Clinton believed the trade agreement to be a boon to the economy. The paper also pointed out that Clinton voted against the Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement in 2005 because of concerns that it would drive jobs overseas.
But Newsday recently published a blog posting written by reporter Dan Janison that said, "The word was our characterization of how we best understood her position on NAFTA, based on a review of past stories and her public statements."
But Janison wrote that the newspaper does not have "a direct quote indicating her campaign told us she thought it was good for the economy at that time." However, the Clinton campaign did not complain when the item was published.
But now that it's become an issue in the campaign, Newsday says it is not fair to attribute the word to Clinton.
"Obama's use of the citation in this way does strike us as misleading," Janison wrote. "The quote marks make it look as if Hillary said 'boon,' not us. It's an example of the kind of slim reeds campaigns use to try to win an office."
PolitiFact might be inclined to give Obama a Barely True ruling for this one, but since he has consistently used the word with no evidence — even going so far as to say she said it "just last year," we find the statement False.