June 12th, 2012
06:50 PM ET
3 years ago

Welcome to the 'Out of Context' campaign

Washington (CNN) - The latest ad from President Barack Obama's re-election campaign accuses Mitt Romney of being "number one in state debt" during his time as governor of Massachusetts.

"Eighteen billion dollars in debt. More debt per person than any other state in the country," the spot states.

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But the ad leaves out some important context. The state was already $16 billion in debt at the end of Romney's first year in office. Under Romney's watch, that debt load rose by $2.5 billion to $18.5 billion, a 16% increase. However, that smaller, less sexy 16% figure is left out of the spot.

The omission leaves the viewer with the impression the entire $18 billion debt was amassed during Romney's administration, a nearly impossible feat given that state lawmakers are required under the Massachusetts constitution to balance the budget ever year.

"Unfortunately for Mitt Romney, the numbers don't lie," Obama campaign spokesman Danny Kanner said in a statement defending the ad.

"Independent fact-checkers and the state's Treasurer agree, Romney increased Massachusetts's long-term debt by $2.6 billion, which was a 16 percent increase in just four years," he added.

The latest ad from the Obama re-election team debuted one day after the White House complained the president's "private sector is doing fine" comment on the economy was being taken out of a larger context.

When asked whether the president's team would extend Romney the same courtesy and pledge not to take the GOP contender's words "out of context," White House press secretary Jay Carney turned the challenge back on journalists.

"If you ask me if we're for good reporting filled with context, the answer is yes," Carney said.

Romney may be getting little sympathy from Democrats given that his campaign's first official ad of the cycle deliberately took Obama's words out of context.

The ad featured a clip from a speech Obama delivered in 2008 in which he was quoting then GOP nominee John McCain. "If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose," then-candidate Obama said in citing a statement made by his Republican challenger.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson with the Annenberg Center for Public Policy said ad distortions from both candidates in both parties are typical of a campaign that has "specialized in taking words out of context."

"It was the slur du jour of the primary season. And now it's coming back with a vengeance in the general election," Jamieson said.

Romney has complained his own comments about public workers are being twisted by the Obama campaign.

"He says we need more teachers, more firemen, more policemen. Did he not get the message from Wisconsin" Romney quipped about the president's "private sector" comments last Friday.

The Obama campaign turned the remarks into a web video that accuses the GOP contender of planning to cut the jobs of public workers.

In an interview on Fox News, Romney called the attack "absurd."

"Of course, teachers and firemen and policemen are hired at the local level and also by states. The federal government doesn't pay for teachers, firefighters or policemen," Romney said.

The Obama campaign later pointed out federal funds are used by local governments to hire public workers.

Bill Adair, the editor of the Pulitzer Prize winning web site Politifact.org, said his fact-checks of the candidates in recent days have rated nearly all of their claims to be half-truths.

"The campaigns are cherry-picking statistics that don't tell a full story," Adair said.

Jamieson's office launched its own fact-checking site, Flackcheck.org, to police campaign ads for their distortions. The web site features a montage of television spots that are guilty of using a wide array of deceptive techniques, including the age of the actors in the commercials.

But it's the sound bite of the moment that can have the most dramatic effect on a campaign, Jamieson said.

"The danger is people hear the sound bite repeated in ads, see it repeated in the news, and lose track of the original context. It becomes the reality and in the process, there's a serious deception," she added.

Also see:

Obama radio spot aims at black voters

Poll gives Obama edge in Pennsylvania

Obama campaign hits Romney's Massachusetts record in second TV ad


Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • President Obama
soundoff (88 Responses)
  1. mommytwice

    I am baffled by these small minded people who still insist that Obama is a socialist. Clearly they have no idea what socialism is or how it works, or they would see that is NOT what we have here. It's the big, scary word that republicans throw around now, like communism was in the 50's. BIG and SCARY words that mean the end of America. Except that it doesn't mean that at all, because it isn't true. That is the biggest lie of all...that the president is a socialist. so, once again, NO, HE iSN'T, and HE NEVER HAS BEEN. Instead, start asking your candidate why he has over seas bank acocunts and why his former job included putting American people out of work. Why is much of his money not in this country? Wouldn't be to avoid paying our taxes, would it?

    June 13, 2012 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  2. Libs Are A Disease

    Obama and the dems are shameless liars!!! We need to remove all dems from office. Only then can we take our country back to its glory days when we were the financial and moral beacon of the world!!

    June 13, 2012 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  3. Greg

    End of an ERROR 2012. The lies that the WH tells and the debt the WH has put this country in will come to an end in November. go GOP...

    June 13, 2012 09:08 am at 9:08 am |
  4. max

    Old tactics, new election.

    June 13, 2012 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  5. superlogi

    Here's a couple of numbers you can take to the bank which aren't subject to debate. By the end of Barry's first term, the country will have added another $6 trillion in debt. Today, that increase is roughly $5.1 trillion and last quarter's increase in GDP is under 2%, even with the borrowing and spending indicated. Furthermore, our job participation rate, not subject to polling errors, is the lowest it's been for over 30 years. Those numbers are real and describe an economy that is anything but in recovery. You can mitigate the problem by describing the differences between public and total debt and arguing that owing one's children really isn't debt, but the facts are, we're a debtor nation in big trouble and the only reason our credit rating is still in pretty good shape is the miserable shape everyone else's is in. Soon, even that won't matter. So, enough already. The progressive (I'm being kind) strategy didn't work in the past and it has the potential of being a ruinous one in the future. It's time for a change.

    June 13, 2012 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  6. g

    obama,s debt builds bridges in america–republican debt builds bridges in iraq,afganistan,till all products are made in america there will be debt-jobs sent over seas take there taxes with them

    June 13, 2012 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  7. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Of course, teachers and firemen and policemen are hired at the local level and also by states. The federal government doesn't pay for teachers, firefighters or policemen," Romney said."

    “I don't remember what I said, but I stand by it, whatever it was that I said" – Mitt Romney (May 2012)

    It's a bit hard to stand by a candidate who can't remember his own pandering - let alone lying - one campaign stop from the next. It would be hard to trust him as President as well. Especially given all that is happening, not only in America, but also the world.

    June 13, 2012 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  8. O-blame-o The Clown

    "The President has said that the most important policy he could address in his second term is climate change, one of the few issues that he thinks could fundamentally improve the world decades from now. He also is concerned with containing nuclear proliferation." ... maybe it's because Obama can't run on his anemic economic record? So forget about the abysmal jobless numbers above 8% for over three years, or the $15 trillion deficit that threatens to turn the U.S. into Greece. No, amid those very real calamities, climate change is more important.

    June 13, 2012 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  9. Wake up people

    Straight Democrat ticket in November, time to fire all the traitors in Congress!
    They have done nothing to move us forward and have blocked progress. Why should they be paid for doing absolutely nothing??

    Everything that comes out of their mouths are lies. Take America back?? From whom??

    OBAMA 2012!

    June 13, 2012 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  10. Schizoid

    All this rabbid and biased camapining will come back and slam both parties in the face. Expect to see an increase in absentionism for the general election and probably a repeat of the 2000 election when the candidate with less popular votes won. Its really pathetic to see that both parties have to lie only to make themselve look better, it demonstrated how corrupt they have become.

    June 13, 2012 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  11. Bla

    It's almost funny how this comment section immediately proves these tactics work beautifully.

    June 13, 2012 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  12. Another white lie

    What's new ? Obama and his minions have done nothing but lie since 2007.

    June 13, 2012 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  13. Mike

    Republicans are right in saying Obama can't run on his record, but that's only because Congress has stopped him from accomplishing anything related to making the economy better. Also when Obama inherited Bush's collapsing economy, it doesnt surprise me that the economy is going to take years to get back. I have yet to see Republicans come out with a plan other than cutting taxes and making businesses and rich pay less taxes, while also attacking the middle class.

    June 13, 2012 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  14. Tabitha

    ""Of course, teachers and firemen and policemen are hired at the local level and also by states. The federal government doesn't pay for teachers, firefighters or policemen," Romney said. "

    Every day we're reminded how hypocritical and out of touch Romney really is. As an independent I was able to support whichever party I felt was more in line with common sense. This last year and a half I have constantly been troubled and disturbed by some of the characters put forth by the republican party. The fact that Bachmann and Gingrich and Trump were considered contenders for the office of POTUS by the GOP was the final straw. I just cannot in good faith support a party of whackos that the republican party has become.

    June 13, 2012 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  15. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    In 2008 Republicans said "Governors are better qualified to be President" and now they're saying "Businessmen are better qualified". It's clear Republicans know the truth about Romney's record as Governor and out of disrespect to the people of Massachuttes they continue to lie about it.

    June 13, 2012 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  16. Larry L

    @Libs Are A Disease

    "Obama and the dems are shameless liars!!! We need to remove all dems from office. Only then can we take our country back to its glory days when we were the financial and moral beacon of the world!!"
    ---------------------------------------------------
    Would you like a listing of the lies created and spread by the Republicans? Birthers? Death squads? Swift boats? How about the intelligence data used to start the Iraq war?

    When were we the "moral beacon of the world"? If by "financial beacon" you must be refering to the Clinton years.

    June 13, 2012 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  17. mcskadittle

    I am not sure how this any different than any campaign, this always happens

    June 13, 2012 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  18. Oh Really?

    You mean they only pick the information that makes them look good and other guy bad? No! Politicians wouldn't lie to the public...seriously none of the SHEEP care...they just want Obama and Romney to tell them what to think, so they can get on with their clueless lives...those that do think for themselves are the outcasts today...sad, truly sad.

    June 13, 2012 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  19. Larry L

    @Four and The Door

    "And under Obama's watch, American national debt load increased by 64%. Does Obama/ Biden 2012 really want to start that discussion?!?!"
    -----------------------------------------------------
    You never, ever man-up to the cause of the recession or the reason for the stimulus spending. This is either delusional or dishonest. Without the stimulus spending we would have dropped into a deep depression – with no manufacturing capability to pull us out. Blaming President for the deficit is like blaming the fire fighters for the water bill after they put out a fire – that you started!

    June 13, 2012 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  20. Wiley

    Just because some Liberal website puts "Political" and "Fact" together to make Politifact doesn't mean they aren't shilling for Obama.

    June 13, 2012 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  21. J.J

    Democrat or Republican candidates, they're just waiting for another "Campaign Contribution" from Goldman Sachs, we lose either way.

    June 13, 2012 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  22. Name Mikey

    O-blame-o the Clown,

    How much of this $15 trillon debt actually occured under the Obama Adminstration? This is what happens when a country fights two wars without a budget or funding to pay for them. This is also what happens when the prevous adminstration passes a Precription Drug Bill for Senior Citizens without the funding to pay for it.

    Get a clue.

    June 13, 2012 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  23. Pete

    I think you republicans should do a little more research before ranting,its making you even more ignorent than you want to be.If you look at the charts put together by the CBO,OMB and Haven Analytics Institute ,it shows the current president the more fiscally responsible than all your ex republican presidents,facts are there ,they don't lie,they're from independent bipartisan researchers.They don't benefit from any of this research,saying good or bad of Pres.Obamas work while president ,just strictly facts,not fabrications you republicans seem good at publicizing.If you compare presidencial terms in office,most republican presidents expanded government ,expanded spending,expanded debt,while democratic presidents Clinton and Obama were the more fiscally responsible,read the charts.Even Carter ,who you say is the worst president did better,much better than your idol Reagan,its there in black and white,but republicans will swear its lies because FOX news says so,isn't that idiotic,listening to their rightwing propaganda,the smut that got all types of people in trouble,no facts,just unfactual crap,the info you insecure hypocrites hold on to daily because fact is you don't have a candidate,he's just a rich,arrogent punk that loves the spotlight,much like that other ignorent,sarcastic moron Trump,he's more trouble than Romney can handle ,you'll see,too much damage control on that hypocrite,much like all you republican minions.You'll see after the first debate who's the only adult in the room,who is presidencial material,who really cares for America,who's truly the only person who can get us on the right track,he's doing it now even though you don't want him too because your expresident was the one who put us in this mess to begin with,isn't that ignorent,so pathedic not coming forward and taking responsibilities for your failures,but that's you republicans,never took credit for anything unless it was good,but that's real rare isn't it!!!

    June 13, 2012 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  24. Delilah

    This is not surprising at all since the GOP has done nothing but distort the truth about everything President Obama has done or tried to do since being elected. This is going to be the politics standard from now on – if you don't like someone destroy them, by any means necessary. The lunatic fringe of the GOP is ruining this country!

    June 13, 2012 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  25. Delilah

    @Pete – You speak the truth but unfortunately it falls on deaf republican ears. They don't want to hear the truth!

    June 13, 2012 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
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