The Message Machine

Mud Is Flying In Illinois Senate Ads

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Throughout this midterm campaign season, NPR will be speaking 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.

Our collaboration with PolitiFact is called The Message Machine. Check back throughout the next four months to see what candidates are saying in their ads, and whether their messages bear any resemblence to the truth.

For tomorrow's Weekend Edition Saturday, Bill talked with host Scott Simon about some of the ads now on the air in Illinois. As he told Scott, Democrat Alexi Giannoulias and Republican Mark Kirk aren't afraid to throw some elbows:

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Bill Adair on Illinois Senate ads

Bill and PolitiFact's Rob Farley also wrote this post for us:

Illinois is known for its rough and tumble politics and a large cast of interesting characters. So it's no surprise that the campaign to fill Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat has turned into a bare-knuckled affair. For the latest installment of our Message Machine feature with NPR, we examined three claims from recent TV ads from Kirk and Giannoulias.

Both candidates have found fertile ground for attacks. Giannoulias has portrayed Kirk as a "typical Washington politician" who cannot be trusted, citing comments Kirk made about his military service that turned out to be incorrect.

Kirk has portrayed Giannoulias as a shady politician who runs with unsavory characters. We decided to put three of the claims to the Truth-O-Meter.

— From a Giannoulias campaign ad, we checked the latest in a string of claims about Kirk's military record, that "He (Kirk) did violate Pentagon rules, twice actually, for improperly mingling politics with his military service." It earned a "true" rating.


— From a Kirk campaign ad, we looked into the claim that "At his father's bank, Alexi made tens of millions in risky loans to convicted mobsters. Then, the bank collapsed." We rated the claim "half true."


— And finally, we checked another Kirk campaign ad that alleged, "Alexi Giannoulias' top aide was a longtime BP lobbyist." It gets a "barely true."


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