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The idea of raising the retirement age is popping up in one of the nation’s hottest Senate races -- and not in a positive way.
Crossroads GPS, a Republican-aligned group, has launched a television ad in the race between incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and his Republican challenger, Rep. Tom Cotton. A portion of the ad says, "Arkansas seniors depend on Social Security and Medicare. It’s troubling that Sen. Mark Pryor said we should overhaul Social Security and Medicare. On Social Security, Pryor suggested raising the retirement age."
The ad then cuts to a 2011 interview of Pryor saying, "... say that they couldn’t get Social Security until they turn 68 or 69."
Greg Sargent, author of the Washington Post’s liberal Plum Line blog, noticed the truncated sentence in the video clip, which suggested the ad’s creators had removed some context from the interview with Pryor. Sargent flagged this to PolitiFact in a tweet, and we thought it deserved a look.
The interview excerpted in the ad was conducted by Jerry Westmoreland of KTSS-TV, an Ion Television affiliate based in Bill Clinton’s birthplace of Hope, Ark. In the interview, Pryor was talking about some of the long-term funding challenges Social Security faces:
"Social Security is another thing that’s not in any of the budgets right now, but it is very, very fixable. And again, if people get serious about this in Washington, we can fix Social Security next week if we wanted to. It's not that hard to do, especially if we start right now, because Social Security is solvent for about 25 years. So if you make small changes now, you have 25 years for those little changes to accumulate over time and really help. You could pretty easily make Social Security solvent in perpetuity. Probably the biggest change would be to take my kids’ generation -- teenagers today -- and life expectancy is longer etc., and probably say that they couldn’t get Social Security until they turn 68 or 69. If you just did that one change, you’d fix about 80 percent of it."
The Pryor campaign, in a written response to the ad, said that the senator "has never voted to raise the Social Security retirement age," and even in the context of the interview, he doesn’t say that a retirement-age hike is his official policy stance.
We found no evidence to contradict those assertions by the Pryor campaign -- but it’s important to note that the ad didn’t make either of those claims. It simply said that Pryor "suggested raising the retirement age." Because the full KTSS interview makes that much clear, the ad does contains a grain of truth.
However, the Crossroads GPS ad glosses over -- indeed, actively edits away -- some important context. Specifically, in the KTSS interview, Pryor limits his suggestion to raising the retirement age for his "kids’ generation -- teenagers today." For an ad whose narration directly addresses "Arkansas seniors" -- and that only includes images of seniors, without showing any teenagers -- that’s a crucial omission.
Crossroads GPS did not respond to an inquiry for this article.
The Crossroads GPS ad said that while "Arkansas seniors depend on Social Security and Medicare," Pryor supports an overhaul by which they "couldn’t get Social Security until they turn 68 or 69."
The ad has a point that "Pryor suggested raising the retirement age" in the KTSS interview. However, the ad is explicitly directed toward "Arkansas seniors," and through selective editing of the KTSS interview, Crossroads GPS omits a clear and important qualifier Pryor had made, that any future hike in the retirement age would be for his "kids’ generation -- teenagers today."
The claim contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression, so we rate it Mostly False.
Crossroads GPS, "Troubling" (ad), Aug. 19, 2014
KTSS-TV, interview with Mark Pryor, June 6, 2011
Mark Pryor for Senate campaign, response to Crossroads GPS ad, Aug. 19, 2014
Greg Sargent, "Tea Party hero running for Senate poses as real defender of safety net" (blog post at wshingtonpost.com), Aug. 19, 2014
PolitiFact, "New York state Democrat's TV ad challenges GOP congressman over raising the retirement age," Aug. 19, 2014
Interview with Erik Dorey, spokesman for Mark Pryor, Aug. 20, 2014
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