Rand Paul, Joe Sestak Hit By Errant Ads: PolitiFact : It's All Politics Both Dr. Rand Paul and Rep. Joe Sestak, Senate candidates, were victimized by truth-bending TV ads. PoliFact found the ads used the common technique of distorting an element of truth.
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Rand Paul, Joe Sestak Hit By Errant Ads: PolitiFact

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Rand Paul, Joe Sestak Hit By Errant Ads: PolitiFact

Rand Paul, Joe Sestak Hit By Errant Ads: PolitiFact

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Only a select few are hearing political messages in their backyards, but these days, it's pretty hard to avoid politics on TV. Yes, it's election ad season, and many of those ads contain half-truths or outright falsehoods. Bill Adair is editor of the nonpartisan fact-checking website PolitiFact.com, and he's come in to take us through a few of the hottest ads that have people talking this week. Welcome back to the program.

Mr. BILL ADAIR (Editor, PolitiFact.com): Thanks for having me.

BLOCK: We're going to bypass all the benign truth-telling ads and go right for the gutter. Common theme among the ads you're seeing, Bill?

Mr. ADAIR: They take a tiny germ of truth and exaggerate it. We've just seen so many ads lately where there's a tiny bit of truth, but they have twisted it in big ways.

BLOCK: Okay. Well, let's go to one example. This is from the state of Kentucky, and an ad that Democrat Jack Conway is running against Republican Rand Paul in their campaign for the Senate seat. Let's listen.

(Soundbite of political ad)

Unidentified Man #1: Listen to Rand Paul.

Mr. RAND PAUL (Republican Senate Nominee, Kentucky): I'm for having crimes and having laws against things that are violent crimes, but things that are non-violent shouldn't be against the law.

Unidentified Man #2: Thinks non-violent crime should be against the law? That's crazy. It should be a crime...

BLOCK: Okay. Now, the visual we're seeing there, first, is Rand Paul speaking two years ago, and the second voice is a police officer saying that's crazy. What's going on in that ad?

Mr. ADAIR: Well, it's a classic case of taking Rand Paul's words out of context. He was referring at the time to helmet laws and gambling, and he was not referring to drug dealing or theft or burglary or prostitution.

BLOCK: When he's talking about things that are not violent that should not be against the law?

Mr. ADAIR: Exactly. And so we've rated that false on our Truth-O-Meter.

BLOCK: Another trend we're seeing this year, Bill, is a whole lot of money coming in from outside groups, and in this case, in this year, most of it on the Republican side.

Mr. ADAIR: Yeah. That's definitely the case. We've seen a lot of independent money, particularly because of a couple of Supreme Court decisions that have allowed corporate money into political races, and about two-thirds of that money has come from groups supporting Republican candidates.

BLOCK: Well, let's listen to an example. This is an ad attacking Joe Sestak, a Democrat running for Senate from Pennsylvania, not coming from his opponent, Republican Pat Toomey. It's coming from an outside group called Crossroads GPS.

(Soundbite of political ad)

Unidentified Man #3: Over half a million Pennsylvanians unemployed, and what's Congressman Joe Sestak done? He voted to gut Medicare, slashing benefits for Pennsylvania seniors. The Obama-Sestak scheme could jeopardize access to care for millions.

Mr. ADAIR: We rated that barely true on the Truth-O-Meter. Specifically, we were looking at, did Sestak truly vote to gut Medicare? The number is right. That's the number of seniors in Pennsylvania who get Medicare Advantage, which is a certain of type of Medicare program that offers extra benefits. Under the health care reform law that Sestak did vote for, there are probably going to be some cuts in Medicare Advantage but only to its extra benefits - things like vision care - not to the core program, so that one got a barely true on our Truth-O-Meter.

BLOCK: Okay. Let's move out to Oregon now. That's where Republican Jim Huffman is trying to unseat Senator Ron Wyden, the Democrat, by tying him to the nation's debt. Here's part of one of his ad.

(Soundbite of political ad)

Unidentified Man #4: Wyden spent $2 million to study exotic ants, and you thought he was out of touch.

BLOCK: Okay, exotic ants and not popping up just in Oregon, right? Those ants are crawling all over.

Mr. ADAIR: Exactly. This is a very popular talking point for a lot of Republican candidates. And in this case, the way it's worded, we rated it false on our Truth-O-Meter.

The reality is in the economic stimulus, there was some money that went to the National Science Foundation, and some of the money from the National Science Foundation was spent on a study on ants, but it is not correct, in our view, to actually say that Ron Wyden spent $2 million on studying ants. He voted for giving that money to the National Science Foundation. He didn't know where that money was going to go.

BLOCK: Well, Bill, let's end with an ad from the congressional race in Florida that has the incumbent Democrat, Alan Grayson, defending his seat against Republican Daniel Webster. And in this ad, Grayson is making a really big claim.

(Soundbite of political ad)

Mr. DANIEL WEBSTER (Republican Congressional Nominee, Florida): It's in the Bible.

Unidentified Woman: Webster tried to deny battered women medical care and the right to divorce their abusers.

Mr. WEBSTER: Submit to me.

Unidentified Woman: He wants to force raped women to bear the child.

Mr. WEBSTER: Submit to me.

Unidentified Woman: Taliban Dan Webster. Hands off our bodies. And our laws.

BLOCK: Wow. Taliban Dan Webster.

Mr. ADAIR: It's definitely the most biting ad, I think, we've seen so far this year. The real distortion here is the use of the submit to me repeatedly. That's completely taken out of context. What Webster was talking about in this case was a biblical passage that he was urging husbands not to use. And Grayson has taken that and repeated it as if Webster believes that. And so we've rated that false on our Truth-O-Meter.

BLOCK: OK. Bill, I'm sure we'll be talking again before Election Day. Thanks for coming in.

Mr. ADAIR: Thanks.

BLOCK: That's Bill Adair, editor of PolitiFact.com. NPR and PolitiFact are working together to truth-squad some of what you'll hear between now and November 2nd. You can find that at npr.org/TheMessageMachine.

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