3 Campaign Ads That Aren't True; 1 That's Amazing

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As much as we may hate seeing some of them for the gazillionith time as an Election Day approaches, campaign ads can enlighten, amuse and enrage — sometimes all at the same time. So they deserve some analysis.

Throughout the midterm campaign season, NPR will be checking in with Bill Adair for his take on some of the best and worst ads of the year. He's Washington bureau chief of the St. Petersburg Times and editor of PolitiFact — which "truth squads" campaign commercials. Its "truth-o-meter," which grades ads on a scale that ranges from "pants-on-fire" to "true," has become a much-relied on guide for those hoping to figure out whether what's being said in candidates' ads can be trusted. We'll be teaming up with Bill on a project called The Message Machine as the campaign continues.

Earlier today, Bill spoke with Weekend Edition Sunday host Liane Hansen for a piece that's due on tomorrow's show. They began by talking about some of the ads that have been on the air in the run-up to this coming Tuesday's senate and gubernatorial primaries in California. As Bill says, the California contenders have been keeping the truth-o-meter busy:

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Here are the California ads Bill and Liane discussed.

First, an ad from GOP gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner that Politifact rates as "half-true":

According to PolitiFact:

"It's true that eBay has an 'adult only' section in which people sell pornographic magazines, videos, adult toys etc. But (Meg) Whitman didn't introduce the idea to start selling adult material on eBay. People were already auctioning adult products on eBay when she came on board as the company's president and CEO in 1998. Rather, not long after taking over, Whitman created the 'adult only' section essentially to wall it off from children."

Then, an ad from Poizner's GOP rival, Meg Whitman, that earned a "false" on the truth-o-meter:

According to PolitiFact:

"One recurring theme in numerous Whitman ads is that Poizner presided over a big increase in the insurance department budget. ... The particular ad we'll be checking tells viewers that Poizner 'increased his department's budget nearly 14 percent.' The numbers we found do not support that claim."

The third California ad is from Republican Senate contender Carly Fiorina. It gets a "pants-on-fire" from PolitiFact:

According to PolitiFact:

"Fiorina is guilty of a major distortion here. Boxer brought up climate change and said it was 'one of the very important national security issues,' but Fiorina ignores that wording and portrays it as if Boxer cited it as the only priority."

Bill and Liane ended their conversation, by the way, with a quick mention of that "best ad ever" we wrote about earlier this week — the gun 'totin, straight-talking, no-nonsense Web video from ultimately unsuccessful Alabama Agriculture Commissioner contender Dale Peterson, a Republican. For those who haven't seen it yet, here's a reprise:

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