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Nunn invitation exaggerates her youth in Georgia
Readers of a certain age will remember Bill Clinton accepting the Democratic nomination for president in 1992 by invoking the name of the small southern town where he lived as a young boy.
The two-time president spent seven years in Hope, Ark., first while his mother finished nursing school and then briefly after she returned.
"I still believe in a place called Hope," Clinton famously said, explaining the small town’s lessons of equality and aspiration.
Clinton was in Atlanta last week, at the home of R&B singer Usher, to raise money for Democrat Michelle Nunn’s U.S. Senate bid.
Both Nunn and her Republican opponent, David Perdue, are trying to burnish their Georgia credentials, no easy task since both have spent major portions of their lives out of state.
The invitation to the Usher event invoked a small middle Georgia town to tell Nunn’s story.
"Daughter of Sam and Colleen Nunn," the bio section read, "Michelle was born in 1966 in Macon, near her grandparents’ farm in Perry, Ga., where she spent most of her childhood."
An alert reader pointed out the "most of her childhood" claim, certain Nunn herself had acknowledged her family moved away when her father was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1972. She was 6 at the time.
Nunn declined to talk to PolitiFact Georgia about the claim.
But she has talked with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and national media about her childhood plenty, even before announcing her candidacy.
In several AJC stories, including a 1992 Father’s Day piece, Nunn says she grew up in the Washington, D.C. area.
A January, 2014 New York Times story describes her as quipping that she moved "against my will," when she was 6 and her family relocated to Maryland.
The same article notes Nunn lived in the Capital region during high school, when she played basketball at the all-girls National Cathedral School.
Those reports are accurate, said Nunn spokesman Nathan Click.
So is the biography listed on her official campaign website, which notes only that she was born near the family’s Perry farm, he said.
"While the bio that appears on the campaign's website and is widely utilized by the campaign correctly characterizes Michelle's biographical facts, a separate document that appeared on some event invitations failed to properly do so," Click said in a statement.
Even though the fundraiser was the most high-profile to date in Nunn’s race against Republican businessman Perdue, that might be the end of it: a bio not properly vetted before publication.
But another Nunn misstep, the leak of confidential campaign strategy memos this summer, brings up another point.
The memos point out that Nunn should anticipate certain attacks, among them that she is "not a ‘real’ Georgian."
Candidates, and voters, move in and out of the state all the time, so it’s unclear how much of a negative that would really be, said Kerwin Swint, chairman of the political science department at Kennesaw State University.
Perdue, for instance, has a television ad airing outside of metro Atlanta, that says he "grew up working his family’s farm in middle Georgia. " The spot doesn’t mention that the 64-year-old spent much of his working life outside the state, in places such as Massachusetts, Tennessee and Hong Kong.
But the leaked memos could open up Nunn to attack for being disingenuous, Swint said.
"Newt Gingrich is from Pennsylvania for heaven’s sake," he said. "Ordinarily it wouldn’t be that big of a story, but it is because of the intense publicity from the leak."
Leslie Shedd, spokeswoman for the division of the Georgia GOP known as Georgia Victory, said the issue is not where Nunn grew up but why any biography would counter already-published facts.
"To me, it’s not an issue that she didn’t spend her entire life in Georgia," Shedd said. "Why does she feel the need to essentially lie about it?"
Based on the explanation from the Nunn camp, and the ease to find biographical information on her, Swint said it appears the bio was an inadvertent, not intentional mistake.
Click described Nunn as a ninth-generation Georgian, who kept ties to Perry by spending holidays and summers at the family farm.
Nunn herself, in the New York Times piece, said her father constantly reminded her that she was "from Georgia."
Nunn has lived in Atlanta since 1989, after graduating from the University of Virginia at 23.
Childhood, by any reasonable definition, ends at least at age 18. And the facts are clear: Nunn spent 12 of those years living outside of Georgia.
Even accounting for summer vacations and holidays, any claim that she spent "most" of her childhood here is inconsistent with the facts.
Nunn’s campaign admits it made a mistake with its statement, and there are multiple instances of her acknowledging her move from Georgia.
Nunn did spend part of her childhood in Georgia, but certainly not most of it.
We rate the invitation claim Mostly False.
Michelle Nunn Fundraising invitation Sept. 13, 2014
The American Presidency Project, "William J. Clinton Address Accepting the Presidential Nomination at the Democratic National Convention in New York," accessed Sept. 12, 2014
Michelle Nunn for U.S. Senate, bio page, accessed Sept. 10, 2014
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Political neophyte Nunn has built career on service," May 27, 2013
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Daddy and me: 4 women share their stories," June 17, 1992
The New York Times, "Old Democratic Name (Nunn) Stakes Bid on Shifting Georgia," Jan. 24, 2014
Phone and email interview with Nathan Click, spokesman for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Michelle Nunn, between Sept. 10, 2014 and Sept. 15, 2014
Phone and email interview with Leslie Shedd, spokeswoman for Georgia Victory, Sept. 11, 2014
Interview with Kerwin Swint, chairman of the political science department at Kennesaw State University, Sept. 12, 2014
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Nunn invitation exaggerates her youth in Georgia
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