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. Andrew

    So basically the same as when Romney acts like the entire national debt is on Obama?

    June 12, 2012 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  2. Max


    Romney 'What's good for the goose is good for the gander' Now, what's good for the gander is good for the goose. See? it's so true we reap what we sow...and what goes around comes around.

    Lesson for Romney: If you don't like it for yourself, don't do it to others'

    June 12, 2012 07:06 pm at 7:06 pm |
  3. Four and The Door

    ...Under Romney's watch, that debt load rose by $2.5 billion to $18.5 billion, a 16% increase.
    And under Obama's watch, American national debt load increased by 64%. Does Obama/ Biden 2012 really want to start that discussion?!?! Obama increased debt 4 times faster than Mitt Romney and this is Obama's ad?!?! I think he should consider David Axelrod's competence as Campaign Manager. It just seems a stupid topic to bring up.

    June 12, 2012 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  4. CBR

    The Romney years in MA were not successful. The Governor decided that his election was a stepping stone to a run for the presidency. The real truth lies somewhere between what the add says to what this writer says.

    Cities and Towns across MA received less money and not more tax money. Since the authors did not live in MA during the Romney years it is difficult for them to be exact as well.

    Many of the ads we are seeing are playing with the truth. It is a case of the ad people trying to write these negative ads without a full understanding of the Constitution or the law.

    June 12, 2012 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  5. geggyg

    The repubs have been saying the same thing thing about Pres Obama that all the govt debt and deficit has occured soled during his term of office

    June 12, 2012 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  6. enuff

    Ok... so it's fair to say Obama blew up the national debt when if fact he inherited it and has struggled with it since taking office. But if you compare it with Romney's gubenetorial record, Romney's situation was taken out of context and should not be compared. You can slam Obama on the healthcare act; but if you say it is even with the healthcare that Romney signed in to law for Mass. then it's compaing ape an oranges and taken out of context again.

    June 12, 2012 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  7. Republicans - "The Not Intended to Be Factually Accurate" Party

    Republicans are finally getting burned for their creative truth telling.

    Obama is no punk Democrat. He`s taken the "tough-guy", "law & orderk reputation AWAY from the GOP. With this ad, he is showing the GOP it better straighten up and fight fair, or else.

    Don`t blame the Democrats, the GOP started this fight. Remember how the started calling a $787 B tax cut & stimulus bill "$1TRILLION" in wasteful spending bill?

    Independents, if you want a better America with a better behaved political class, vote a straight Democratic ticket in 2012 & 2014. Do that, and come 2016, the GOP will start to behave.

    June 12, 2012 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  8. Cody from UT

    Yep, lies and distortion are the GOP's only hope

    June 12, 2012 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  9. gearloose

    This is disgusting. We are not idiots.
    Problem is that who is to say that the deceptive practices end once a candidate is in office?

    June 12, 2012 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  10. Liz the First

    Here's a novel idea, tell the truth in campaign ads. the whole truth in as much time as spot allows. it's no wonder so many foks are turned off politics and why so many unqualified people get in with a tiny percentage of actual voters participating. seems all these so-called 'good Christians' would remember the commandment about not bearing false witness against their neighbors. i don't recall it saying '* unless you're running for office.'

    June 12, 2012 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  11. judy

    well if it is ok for mittens then if should be ok for the president.

    June 12, 2012 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  12. Cheryl Jefferies

    Obama claims in a recent ad: MA fell to 47th in jobs production under Romney. FACT: When Mitt took office, jobs' production in MA made them 51st in the nation. Under his leadership, jobs' production in MA rose and when he left office, MA was 28th in the US. Mitt left with a surplus in the state's account. When he began, they had a deficit. He whittled un-employment DOWN to around 4%. Taxes were lower. He was going to lower them further, but the Dem state legislature blocked him. And, these are just a few of the things he did. I'll be glad to post more. Obama's ads are flat-out lies. No half-truths about them. Even a half-truth would be a pleasant change from Obama. I have never seen a more blatant liar in my life. Even in politics. He truly is King Liar. And, those who believe him truly do constitute his Court of Fools.

    June 12, 2012 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  13. Tubby the Tuba Texas

    You can bet Romney was under the stress of the Great Recession either! 47th in new jobs for Mass., running at 10% higer unemployment that the rest of the nation, and the greatest debt in AMERICA per person....18 billion. Why in the world do the Repbulicans think he can be the life saver for the United States! He couldn't do in the good ol' days when unemployment was at about 4.4% across the nation? Wow!

    June 12, 2012 09:14 pm at 9:14 pm |
  14. Thomas

    Dear President Obama.

    Whats with the Romney and the automatic assault rifle ad ? No GUNs! We are better then that. I don't want any weapons used as symbolism for a political advertisement. That's something McCain or Palin would do. Next people will be playing political video games with virtual weapons .

    I remember two presidents of two differen politacalt partys shot in my lifetime , I don't want to see a third!

    Sinserly Thomas

    June 12, 2012 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  15. Voltaire

    What goes around comes around. How does it feel, alexithymic Mitt?

    June 12, 2012 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  16. G

    It appears that President Obama is using the republicans own playbook against them.

    June 12, 2012 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  17. ben

    nobodys going to mention the trillions spent under obamas watch? >> course not...

    June 12, 2012 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  18. Will

    Well, You know what Romney says, "What's Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander." The ROmney continues to say that it is Obama that is responsible for the 16 Trillion dollar US debt, and HE NEVER states that most of this debt was generated because of GOP policies!

    June 12, 2012 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  19. really?

    You know, the $2.2 Billion increase in the state debt is significantly less than the $7 TRILLION increase in the national debt.

    June 12, 2012 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  20. jack878

    Really, Obama is attacking Mitt for being a reckless spender. Obama will go down in history as the most recklessly spending president of all time.

    June 12, 2012 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  21. Larry L

    The repeated sound bite is Karl Rove's baby. His voters are particularly vulnerable to the process – under-educated, fearful, bigoted, and narrow-minded. They WANT to believe the spin.

    June 12, 2012 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  22. normajean @ verizon ,com

    This is one of the biggest problems we have with the use of the media......things that are said by both parties against the other party and repeated endlessly so that many uninformed voters will be so confused that they will vote indiscriminately and without knowledge of what they are voting for.. Too many believe the outright lies and distortions and make no effort to learn otherwise.....It's seen constantly in these comments when people repeat what they have heard and have misunderstood or just blindly accepted.Many voters extend their attempts to find the truth, many more accept whatever is said and couldn't care less, forgetting that in the long run THEY and their families can suffer from this questionable voting practice!!!!

    June 12, 2012 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  23. John in Vegas

    Why do we allow this to continue? Anyone else selling a product or service has to comply with truth in advertising laws. Why not politicians?

    June 13, 2012 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  24. Pat Schroeder

    Another absurd statement from the Obama campaign. How can you possibly compare the $2.5 B. in debt Romney supposedly was responsible for to the $6 Trillion in new debt Obama has racked up in 3 years. How can Obama possibly accuse Romney of increasing state debt when he holds the all time record for a 50% increase in the national debt, with no federal budget for the past 3 years and no way to pay the debt off.

    The Obama campaign keeps shooting themselves in the foot. How dumb can they be in defining their message?

    June 13, 2012 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  25. caeser

    It don't matter what the facts is,it only matters what you thinks the facts is.

    June 13, 2012 12:57 am at 12:57 am |
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