Original version of fact-check of Senate Leadership Fund ad about Claire McCaskill

Did Claire McCaskill say normal people can afford a private plane? No

Senate Leadership Fund on Tuesday, October 16th, 2018 in a campaign ad

Published: Tuesday, October 16th, 2018 at 3:15 p.m.

Private planes have been a long-running headache for Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

In 2011, she sold a family owned private plane and repaid the federal government $88,000 for flights she paid for through her Senate office. Earlier this year, while running for a third term in a nip-and-tuck race, McCaskill took heat for using her current private plane to criss-cross portions of the state while she was supposedly on a three-day RV tour of the state.

The Senate Leadership Fund -- a pro-Republican super PAC with close ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell -- is seeking to remind voters about this history in an ad released Oct. 16.

The ad takes claim at McCaskill’s "high-flying lifestyle." An animated plane labeled "Air Claire" leads the viewer through the ad, and the narrator cites investments by her husband in the Cayman Islands and reminds viewers of the money McCaskill repaid to the treasury for flights.

At one point, the narrator says, "Claire even said this about private planes." The ad then shows footage of McCaskill saying, "That normal people can afford it." The narrator returns to ask, "Normal people can afford a private plane?" The ad concludes with the narrator saying, "Multimillionaire Claire McCaskill: Way out of touch with Missouri."

Did McCaskill really say that "normal people can afford" private planes?

No — the ad leaves out the lead-in question from an audience member that prompted the remark.

We found some original footage posted on YouTube by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, another Senate GOP campaign organization. The group posted the clip on Aug. 21, 2017, and labeled it as an Aug. 19, 2017, town hall in Kennett, Mo., located in the state’s southeastern "bootheel." It doesn't show the full town hall -- or even the full comment that McCaskill was replying to -- but it shows enough to undermine the ad's argument.

Here’s the full transcript of the 18-second clip the group posted:

Audience member: "You know, that’s one thing the United States has that nobody else has, is the freedom to fly around and be affordable where a normal person can afford it."

McCaskill: "Will you remind them when they come after me about my husband’s plane? That normal people can afford it."

One can argue with the wisdom of making this wisecrack. But it doesn’t appear that McCaskill said that "normal people can afford" private planes.

When McCaskill said that "normal people can afford it," she echoes and elaborates on the language of the audience member. The audience member never said anything about private planes in the clip; he appears to be referencing the freedom and low cost of the overall U.S. commercial aviation system.

The audience member’s lead-in comment was snipped out of the Senate Leadership Fund ad, depriving the viewer of the fuller context of McCaskill’s remark.

The McCaskill campaign said she was attempting to make a joke that elaborated on what the audience member said.

Senate Leadership Fund Spokesman Chris Pack did not provide an explanation for the ad's claim.

Our ruling

The Senate Leadership Fund says McCaskill "even said this about private planes, ‘that normal people can afford it.’"

The footage in the ad leaves out the lead-in comment that prompted McCaskill’s remark. The full footage makes it clear that McCaskill is echoing an audience member’s observation about how U.S. commercial aviation system is available to a "normal person" — not saying that ordinary Americans can afford private planes.

We rate the statement False.