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November 2, 2012 / Joshua

It Took Romney To Go To China

A perfect example of the kind of blatant and undeterred deception the Romney campaign has regularly engaged in is their recent attempt to mislead people about Chrysler making Jeeps in China.

The good news: for this falsehood, the campaign is actually getting a ton of pushback from the news media, on top of pushback from Chrysler and GM, from all over really. But, true to form, none of that has stopped them from running deliberately misleading ads about Jeep.

The whole thing started when Romney said this at a campaign rally in Ohio last week:

“I saw a story today that one of the great manufacturers in this state Jeep — now owned by the Italians — is thinking of moving all production to China”

What immediately jumps out to you about that statement? For me, it’s the “I saw a story” beginning. Really? You saw a story, did you? Did you carefully read that story? Was it from a reliable source? Did you look into it any further before spouting off about the possibility of people losing their jobs? Or were you just deliberately trying to scare up some last minute votes?

I’ve heard Romney do this before – in the first debate, in fact, when he said, “I saw a study”, followed by something that the study in question didn’t actually say. When Romney starts a sentence in that way, it should set off bullshit detectors everywhere, in the same way someone saying “According to this email forward I read” should.

Turns out, in the Jeep statement, Romney was referring to a Bloomberg article, or a misreporting of that article, which announced that Fiat, majority owner of Chrysler, has plans “to return Jeep output to China,” but by adding new production there, not moving existing production out of the U.S., as some concluded and Romney suggested.

Chrysler quickly set the record straight. Did the Romney campaign drop it? No. They went ahead and turned the falsehood into a deceptive television ad, and then expanded it with an even more deceptive radio ad. The TV ad says:

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.

Well, the “build Jeeps in China” part is possibly accurate. But the rest, not so much, and the clearly intended and upsetting implication is that Americans will lose jobs to China. Still false, plain and simple, and opposite to reality. And they know it.

It’s a fitting way to wind down this campaign. It’s almost like the Romney team has been attempting some ill-conceived Dr. Evil-style scheme to see just how far a presidential candidate can go in terms of denying standard calls for disclosure and acting totally unrestrained by fact-checks and subsequent negative coverage. It’s seems like a big gamble, and a terribly unwise one in my view, particularly with this transparently desperate and damaging move in Ohio.

Still, that Romney’s campaign has gotten this far and this close without being consistently held accountable by the press doesn’t reflect well on the current state of our news media. It’s an odd time, with the proliferation of a wide variety of questionable “news sources” and the proliferation of fact-check organizations that don’t really seem to matter much. Clearly, Romney is attempting to exploit this disaggregated system, further encouraging the tribal tendency to simply reject / ignore reporting one doesn’t like. And he certainly knows that the sizable right wing media system will be there to back him up, whatever he says.

Or perhaps, the Romney team has cynically calculated that enough people will either believe them, or will just not know whom to believe, or will just shrug all this off as “typical politics.” Either way, it demonstrates a particularly unhealthy kind of politics, and it’s one of the many reasons why Romney deserves to be defeated next week.

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