Speaking to voters in Ohio recently, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said that President Barack Obama's auto bailout has been such a failure that auto-maker Jeep is "thinking of moving all production to China."
Although journalists, and even Chrysler itself, quickly pointed out that claim has absolutely no basis in reality, the campaign did not immediately offer any clarification or correction. On Sunday, it became clear why they didn't bother.
Romney's misleading claim about Jeep is now a television ad designed to push back against criticism of Romney's prior stance, which he explained in a 2008 editorial titled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt." The carefully worded ad doesn't repeat Romney's objectively misleading claim that Jeep is moving to China, but it does leave viewers with that impression, and it accomplishes this by leaving out two very important pieces of context.
The Romney campaign told Huffington Post reporter Sam Stein that the ad is based on a story that appeared last week in Bloomberg News. However, that story says quite plainly that Jeep's president, Fiat CEO Mike Manley, "referred to adding Jeep production sites rather than shifting output from North America to China" (emphasis added).
Chrysler published a statement Thursday that abruptly corrects Romney while not mentioning him by name, explaining that the allegation is "a leap that would be difficult even for professional circus acrobats." Chrysler's statement added that "Jeep has no intention of shifting production of its Jeep models out of North America to China. It’s simply reviewing the opportunities to return Jeep output to China for the world’s largest auto market. U.S. Jeep assembly lines will continue to stay in operation. A careful and unbiased reading of the Bloomberg take would have saved unnecessary fantasies and extravagant comments."
The Obama campaign has repeatedly used Romney's "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" editorial as a political truncheon, flogging the candidate for a plan that many auto executives said would leave the whole industry in shambles. In that editorial, Romney proposed a dramatically smaller rescue plan that depended upon private investment for a majority of the funding, followed by "guarantees for post-bankruptcy financing" once auto makers had "shed excess labor, pension and real estate costs."
Romney's new ad also cites a recent endorsement by The Detroit News -- an article which picks Romney over Obama despite twice calling him "wrong" on the auto bailouts. "Mitt Romney might be willing to do anything to close the deal, but Ohioans know where he stood when it mattered most, and they won't be fooled by his dishonest ads in the final days of this campaign," Obama campaign spokesperson Frank Benenati told the paper.
This video was published to YouTube on Sunday, October 28, 2012.