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The ad’s sponsor -- the Now or Never PAC -- is going for the jugular by attacking Hall for his age.
"Ralph Hall was first elected to Congress when Jimmy Carter was president," the ad says. "Now he’s 90 -- the oldest member in Congress ever. With Texas families struggling, he isn’t making a difference for us any more. Hall’s a Washington insider who’s voted for wasteful earmarks and to increase the debt ceiling. Times have changed. After 33 years, let’s bring Ralph Hall home."
The ad is correct that Hall is 90 -- he turns 91 on May 3 -- but we raised our eyebrows at the claim that Hall is "the oldest member in Congress ever."
It is correct to say Hall is the oldest serving House member in history. According to the U.S House of Representatives, Hall passed the previous record-holder for oldest serving member in 2012 -- Charles Manly Stedman, who died in office on Sept. 23, 1930.
However, as students learn in basic civics class, "Congress" refers to the House and the Senate. And the Senate has had four members older than Hall, according to Senate historian Donald Ritchie.
They are Carl Hayden, D-Ariz., who was serving at 91; Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., who was serving at 92; Theodore Francis Green, D-R.I., who was serving at 93; and Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who was serving as a Republican at 100.
Ritchie noted one difference between the House and Senate: "House members stand every two years and senators every six, so of all the 90-year-old senators, only Thurmond won re-election in his 90s," as Hall is trying to do.
Still, that’s not what the ad said.
The Now or Never PAC ad said Hall is "the oldest member in Congress ever." That’s not correct -- four members of Congress, all of them senators, have served at a more advanced age than Hall. So we rate the claim False.
Now or Never PAC, "Small Hall" (ad), March 20, 2014
U.S. House of Representatives, "Record Holders," accessed March 20, 2014
Washington Post, "Ralph Hall, oldest member of Congress, forced into GOP runoff," March 4, 2014
Email interview with Donald Ritchie, U.S. Senate historian, March 20, 2014
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