Inside the Meter

The Lie of the Year, still

A number of readers emailed us this week about news reports that Chrysler is moving forward with a partnership in China to produce Jeeps. They wondered: Doesn’t that disprove our Lie of the Year -- that Mitt Romney said Barack Obama "sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China" at the cost of American jobs?

No, it doesn’t.

We were clear in our original Oct. 29 fact-check and our Dec. 12 Lie of the Year story that Jeep intended to build cars in China to sell in the Chinese market. News reports this week don't really say anything new. They simply say that Jeep is going ahead with that plan.

Our story focused on the clear message of the Romney campaign’s ad, that jobs in the United States were being moved to China, or perhaps that Jeep was moving its entire operations to China. That is not the case and has never been the case.

From our story:

By 2012, Chrysler and other automakers were doing much better -- a fact that confounded Romney. In Ohio, a major expansion of its Toledo plant was in the works for the Jeep Liberty. In Detroit, the company was hiring workers to build the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

But Chrysler was thinking of reviving the Jeep brand in key foreign markets, and like other American automakers, Chrysler preferred to build cars in the countries where it intended to sell them -- a common strategy to reduce tariffs and transport costs.

Bloomberg reported on Oct. 22 that the company was planning to restart production of Jeeps in China. The entirety of the Bloomberg report made it clear that Chrysler was considering expansion in China, not shuttering American production.

The Romney campaign was crafty with its word choice, so campaign aides could claim to be speaking the literal truth, but the ad left a false impression that all Jeep production was being moved to China.

Coming in a campaign where outsourcing of American jobs was a major issue, the ad said: "Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China. Mitt Romney will fight for every American job."  

That wording, plus a quote on the screen that said Chrysler "plans to return Jeep output to China," clearly suggested that Jeep was shifting its U.S. production to China.

Other fact-checkers agreed with us on this point. wrote :

Mitt Romney falsely claimed in a recent speech that "Jeep, now owned by the Italians, is thinking of moving all production to China." Chrysler says it is considering adding Jeep production sites in China to address rising demand in that market. But the company says it is "a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats" to suggest that it would close U.S. facilities and move all operations to China. Despite Chrysler’s admonition, Romney is now making a similar claim in a new TV ad.

Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post FactChecker, gave the ad four Pinocchios and said, "This ad shows that we have entered the final, desperate week of the campaign."

We should be clear, we are not defending President Obama’s auto policy. As independent fact-checkers, we don’t take positions on policy issues. So whether it was advisable to bail out the auto companies, and or whether the bailout  was done with proper safeguards was beyond the scope of our fact-check. Instead, we were fact-checking the ad’s message: that his policies had destroyed American auto jobs and sent them to China.

We found no independent experts who would agree with that claim; they too found the ad deceptive.

The Jeep ad took an issue for legitimate policy disagreement and twisted the facts to deceive voters. We stand by our decision to make it the Lie of the Year.