June 12th, 2012
06:50 PM ET
11 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. souptwins

    This is why I hate to see people call one side or the other "liars". To say that is also to tell a half truth. We will never move forward without getting past the divisive rhetoric.

    June 13, 2012 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  2. Al-NY,NY

    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!!

    The Beaver...."golly gee Wally. Why did you do with my edsel car model toy? I was hoping to play with it outside under the big tree by the white picket fence. That way I could see all the boys and girls playing with their new toys..you know frisbees and hula hoops. I sure wanna get one of them soon" Wally..."oh Beav, you know Eddie Haskill and I wouldn't take your toy. Those new hula hoops are much cooler. We're heading down to the soda fountain to have a banana split" Mom..."Oh Ward. I have your shoes freshly shined for you. I got some polish on my flowered apron but that's OK. Since I'm home all day doing dishes, vacuuming, and being a good Stepford wife, I'll have time to clean it off, make your dinner and have a fresh drink and your slippers ready when you get home"

    June 13, 2012 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  3. billmeno

    Obama ... one big charade.

    June 13, 2012 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  4. Expat American

    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!!
    The financial beacon of which you speak were the Clinton years. And we will see improvement on the economic front during President Obama's second term.

    The moral beacon of which you speak are the Bush years – when Republicans lied to the nation, lied to its allies, lied to the United Nations, spied on American citizens, tortured civilians and fired missiles into women and children during shock and awe – all while they pleasured themselves under a big fancy conference table at the Bush White House.

    June 13, 2012 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  5. billmeno

    To Wake UP America..... who has controlled congress for most of these years, and obstructed before that...why the Dems that you are excusing from all of the problems they caused. Open your eyes.

    June 13, 2012 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  6. some guy in New Hampshire

    How strange that so many people here accuse Obama of lying but neglect to mention Romney's catalog of deliberate lies: "Obama never signed a trade deal", "The stimulus didn't create a single job", "Obama hasn't offered a jobs plan", on and on. Spin has become humdrum; now candidates have to flat lie to be heard? Do they stop to think what it will mean if they win the presidency but have to lie to get people to vote for them? What will it mean if you win the White House and have no one's respect?

    June 13, 2012 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  7. Matt

    Obama is so gifted at blaming others for his failures.

    June 13, 2012 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  8. Newme1

    Dear Mr. President, I know its going to be hard, but please do not stoop to the low-life, lying level of unfit Mitt and the GOP. The American people (most) are not stupid and hopefully will take the time to get the facts before casting their vote in November. Politics is just a disgusting and dirty game to the repugs and their low-information supporters and therefore, they do not have the best interest of the middle class and poor people at heart. Their main goal is to make you a one-term president and take "their" country back. They have refused to cooperate with you from day one as evident by their secret meeting on inaugural night and a list of other events in which they refuse to compromise. Things would probably be a lot better for America if the GOP stop their envious and hating behavior towards you and do their jobs like they were voted in to do. It's really sad that the repugs are not in support of some policies now but were in support of those same policies before you became President. Unfit Mitt has nothing to offer America but lies and backwards thinking and I can't wait until the debates, I know you are going to crush him!

    June 13, 2012 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  9. billmeno

    Everyone ignores all of the wasted spending but when it comes time to cut .... they say it will start in the places that have the emotional ties....the children, education, firemen and police............this is not the problem, just a smokescreen to divert the attention so they don't have to do their job and cut the fat. Spending is the problem....cut the fat that needs to get cut. We cant do eveything for everyone........

    June 13, 2012 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  10. Pete

    Republicans quit distorting the truth,if you see the non partisan,non political information compiled by the CBO,OMB and HAVEN ANALYTICS INSTITUTE you've seen the president against everything and everybody with their republican obstructionism ,has been doing much better factually than any republican president in history.Even Pres.Carter faired better than your idol Reagan,that's evident in charts compiled by these research groups.Pres.Obama,Clinton,Carter ,all faired better overall than the free wheeling ,free spending idiots you had for presidents.Republicans presidents expanded governments,spending ,federal debt,its seen on these charts,no misstatements,no spins,just facts.You'll see by these charts that Pres.Obama is more fiscally responsible than all your presidents combined,pretty sad,really pathedic,but that's your republicans,never said they'd help the country,just help themselves,ask Bush and Cheney,they did pretty well,didn't they,at our expense...

    June 13, 2012 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  11. pupsinnahwindow@gmail.com

    What exactly is it that Americans are trying to understand but can't receive the operating instructions
    to the filtering system at the ranch's stream of information roll?

    June 13, 2012 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  12. Pete

    Republicans will spin,lie to get in the WH,but what then,lies and spins don't produce bills,create legislation,create jobs.It'll be more republicans looking like deers in the headlights,more ignorence from the right,than forgetting who put him there,he's there, he's on his own,good luck,remember us, the idiots who put you there!!!Much like Bush,Cheney loading up the monies they'd stole with unfunded wars,tax reductions,Medicare expansion ,all at you ,the tax payers expense,you republicans fail to remember that don't you.We didn't get America like this from Clinton,but boy ,did we get it from Bush,ya don't remember that do ya!!!Really short memories,typical republican hypocrites in a bubble,not caring but for themselves,that's patriotic isn't it!!

    June 13, 2012 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  13. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Republicans had their chance, and lied us into an unnecessary war, gave us our first great depression, almost gave us our second, created a huge national debt but think European austerity will put us on our feet, gave even more tax cuts to those who don't need it, obstructed every job measure to make sure the president is a one termer, has a nominee who is a tax evader, money launderer and wants even bigger tax cuts for the wealthy. And they think they deserve one more chance at destroying America?

    June 13, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
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