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. AmericanSam

    Come on Barack. You're better than this. Tell the truth. That's all we need to win.

    June 13, 2012 01:17 am at 1:17 am |
  2. Chris

    Turnabout is fair play. Republicans are always attacking Obama over the size of the debt. Yet they never admit that two-thirds of the debt was run up by the Bush administration. And, of the 1/3 of the debt that was run up under Obama, 95% is directly due to left over Republican policies that are still in place and that the GOP continue to obstruct any effort to reform.

    June 13, 2012 06:31 am at 6:31 am |
  3. anoel2005

    what can we expect from the Golfer in Chief who can't get elected on his own record?

    Obama's people have leaked security info just to make Obama look like a hero. Dangerous to our security and pathetic too.

    They are so desperate to get Obama elected , they even photo shopped his likeness into pictures of past Presidents. Obama needs to go .

    June 13, 2012 06:47 am at 6:47 am |
  4. Gurgyl

    Bain capital thug, his nonsense.

    June 13, 2012 07:02 am at 7:02 am |
  5. Bev

    sounds to be that obama is scared & he should be romney 2012

    June 13, 2012 07:23 am at 7:23 am |
  6. kathy smelser

    you mean ....Mitt is un-happy that his own words are being twisted ...even though he is doing the same thing ......when all else fails plat the victim

    June 13, 2012 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  7. Anonymous010

    '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.'

    Stupid move, Carney. They just called your bluff with this article and will probably continue to do so.

    June 13, 2012 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  8. Steve-Illinois

    "The private sector is doing fine." was not taken out of context. He wasn't attempting to "compare" the private, and public sectors, he was pushing for more government hiring. If all "lost" public sector jobs were rehired, unemployment would only drop by 1/2-3/4 of one point!

    June 13, 2012 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  9. Kevin

    Why doesn't the media, and these watch groups, just call all of these distortions, mistruths, etc., what they are....lies. They are nothing more than overt attempts to deceive voters into voting for them. Politics is a sad, sad game. I wish politicians would just tell the truth, and let the votes fall accordingly.

    June 13, 2012 08:00 am at 8:00 am |
  10. unitedfor1

    Hard to put on a spin on the fact that Obama triple the debt in three years.

    June 13, 2012 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  11. Anthony

    Some of the things that have been said are simply false. For example, Romney says that he will reduce the deficits, but his tax cut plan does the exact opposite, and will add more than 3 trillion to the debt over the next 10 years, unless he can come up with 3 trillion in cuts. Of course, he has not said what he will cut, with the exception of Obama's healthcare plan, but that is actually counterproductive. Romney ignores the revenue component of Obama's plan. The CBO said that Obama's plan will actually reduce the deficits, meaning that its revenue is expected to exceed its cost.

    Republicans also accuse Obama of runaway spending. The only problem is that they cannot point out where is the runaway spending in the budget. The biggest items in the budget are military, Social Security, and Medicare. If military spending, Social Security, Medicare, and interest on the national debt are added together, they come up to about 2.4 trillion of the 3.7 trillion budget in 2012. The federal government has revenue of 2.4 trillion in 2012. This is why we have a 1.3 trillion deficit. The rest of the government, including Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Education, Department of Justice, and Department of Agriculture, survives on deficit spending. If Republicans want to cut taxes, increase military spending, and balance the budget, even giving up on the rest of the government will not be enough. Social Security and Medicare will need to be cut.

    June 13, 2012 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  12. Name

    Time for the Liberals to get out of they way. They have proven Socialism doesnt work in America. Now its time to take back our country.

    June 13, 2012 08:21 am at 8:21 am |
  13. Fearless Freep

    If you tell a lie over and over and over, it becomes the truth......see below.......


    Hard to put on a spin on the fact that Obama triple the debt in three years.

    June 13, 2012 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  14. King

    how can you campare mittens Massachusetts economy with Obama's. Obama took over when the country was falling off a cliff, with rapidly expanding economy retraction of 9 percent and still moving south, a stock market crash at thosand and still moving south, 2 wars, a 800 thousand jobs a month and rapidly growing, and a trillion dollar budget deficit, furthermore, this Was the country not just 1 out of the states. all mittens had to contend with was a budget deficit and a jobs problem, and he messed that up. as he said with health care states are unique with different problems, you had 1 uniqueness with your state Mr mittens, and messed up, how the hell are you supposed to trusted with 50 uniqueness.

    June 13, 2012 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  15. Rudy NYC

    "What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander."

    Believe it or not, Mitt Romney has a chance to win an Olympic gold medal if his horse wins the Horse Ballet.

    June 13, 2012 08:34 am at 8:34 am |
  16. Malory Archer

    It's obvious that the author is in the tank for mittens.

    June 13, 2012 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  17. Dan5404

    Adlai Stevenson once said, "If the Republicans will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we'll stop telling the truth about them."

    June 13, 2012 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  18. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    How does that commercial go with the three mice? "How ya' like me now?!".
    I know two wrongs don't make a right but it is good to see that the President is not punking up in showing Robme that two can play that game.
    Obama 2012. Period.

    June 13, 2012 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  19. Fearless Freep

    *** Now its time to take back our country.

    Its not "yours" to take.
    Take it back to what ?
    Unless you have a time machine you cant go backwards.
    Oh, i get it.
    Take it back to when Blacks rode in the back of the bus.
    Woman barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.
    Gays back in the closet.

    June Cleaver no longer cleans the house wearing high heels and pearls.

    June 13, 2012 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  20. Malory Archer

    Thomas, the ad was Rick Santorum's. Look at the bottom of the still frame – Paid for by Rick Santorum: Authorized by Rick Santorum.

    June 13, 2012 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  21. Malory Archer


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


    Because the $$$ was spent putting the previous occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue's wars on the books and filling in his Medicare Part D donut hole, and if anyone mentions those facts, your ilk goes apoplectic. The truth hurts but it is what it is.

    June 13, 2012 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  22. ST

    There is no any ad which is not taken out of the context, whether is a good one or a bad one. No ad of say 10 or 20 minutes to explain the whole story. It has been so ever since. Super PACs are even worse in doing it. They did it through out GOP primaries and enabled Romney to emerge as a nominee. If some think it is bad, then this disqualifies Romney to be a nominee.

    June 13, 2012 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  23. Rick

    Anyone that decides who to vote for based on political ads is a moron and should not be allowed to vote. Educate yourselves people! Do your own research. If you do and have a bit of common sense (and you can get past the fact that the President is black), there is no other choice than Obama-Biden.

    June 13, 2012 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  24. Malory Archer

    Time for the neocons to get out of they way. Thirty+ years of trickledown has proven that fascism doesnt work in America. Now its time to take back our country.

    June 13, 2012 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  25. tv22

    This is as good as the gaffe that says he didn't create enough jobs when the unemployment rate was at 4.7% in MA.

    June 13, 2012 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
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