This Year's Campaign Ads Rate A 'Barely True' There were so many exaggerations and misstatements in the commercials run by candidates and interest groups that PolitiFact decided to give the whole gang a pretty low grade.
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This Year's Campaign Ads Rate A 'Barely True'

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This Year's Campaign Ads Rate A 'Barely True'

This Year's Campaign Ads Rate A 'Barely True'

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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A: True, half true, barely true, pants on fire. And in this year's campaign, he rates most ads barely true.

BILL ADAIR: We have seen a lot of ads where there is a tiny kernel of truth, but it is twisted or distorted or blown up in some way.

: Bill has been sending us many ads, including some involving health care.

ADAIR: It's been a big issue - Democrats using it to distance themselves from their party, in many cases.

: Basically saying I didn't really agree with all the health care thing or any of it.

ADAIR: To show their independence.

: OK.

ADAIR: But it's also been a good attack line for the Republicans, who have used the health care votes to suggest that Democrats wanted to cut Medicare and support big government, that kind of thing.

: Now, you sent us a particularly interesting ad. This is Dan Coats, former senator from my home state of Indiana. He's running to get the job back again. His opponent is Congressman Brad Ellsworth, running for the United States Senate in Indiana. And this is what Dan Coats has to say, or his ad has to say, about his Democratic opponent.


Unidentified Woman: Congressman Brad Ellsworth said he would protect our seniors. But when he got to Washington, Congressman Ellsworth voted for the largest cuts in Medicare history - over $500 billion. That's right, Ellsworth voted with Nancy Pelosi to force seniors into Barack Obama's government-run health care program.

: Let me make sure I understand this. The ad's contention is that seniors are going to be forced out of Medicare and into a government-run health care program.


ADAIR: It is nonsensical.

: Should we just underline for people who may not know that Medicare is run by the...

ADAIR: By the government.

: Thank you.

ADAIR: This would be - this one was so ridiculous, we gave it our lowest rating on PolitiFact, Pants on Fire. The only truth to that sentence is that, yeah, Brad Ellsworth did vote for the Health Care Law. But to say that, in doing so, he would force seniors into Barack Obama's government-run health care program, is just not true. That's not what the law does. And, of course, seniors are already in the government's health care program - as you noted, Medicare.

: There's also a statement in there about $500 billion in cuts to Medicare. You've rated that claim before in other ads.

ADAIR: We've tackled that many times. Yes, because we've heard that from many Republicans around the country. And this is sort of the contradiction in some of the Republican ads; that they have said that somebody wants more government health care. But on the other hand, it's bad because what they're using to pay for the Health Care Law are $500 billion in reductions in the future growth of Medicare.

: And it's reductions in growth, not cuts - just to kind of put a point on that.

ADAIR: Exactly. And so, you know, it's true - Ellsworth in voting for it, you can say did support those things. But they're not expected to affect the overall benefits of Medicare.

: Now, let's move on over to the other side of the aisle. There's a Democratic congressman named Glenn Nye. He's from Virginia. He's a conservative Democrat in a conservative part of the country. He's tried to keep his job, which could be difficult this year. And he's playing a bunch of ads like this one.


GLENN NYE: When I ran two years ago, I said I was going to be independent. And that's exactly what I've been. I stood up to my party leaders and voted no on the Wall Street bailouts.

: Okay, he stood up to his party leaders and voted no on the Wall Street bailouts, anything wrong with that?

ADAIR: Well, the wrong part would be that he wasn't even in Congress when the bailout was approved. He actually didn't even get elected...


ADAIR: ...until about 32 days after the vote. We ended up rating this barely true on our Truth-O-Meter. The true part is: Yes, he did vote - previously on one of the bills, I think you could characterize as speaking up against the TARP, against the bailout.

: Bailout-related bills, later on.

ADAIR: Exactly. The bill he was referring to was a resolution about whether to release the second half of the money. But it was moot at the point that he voted on it.

We've seen this in many Democratic districts where Democrats are in trouble, where they are trying to distance themselves from the party. So they're going great lengths to say I really am independent. But in this case, it's just barely true.

: He was so independent he refused to even be in Congress at the time that vote was...


: ...was cast.

Bill, thanks for bringing us a little more truth. Appreciate it.

ADAIR: Thanks, Steve.

: Bill Adair of

The project is called the Message Machine, and you can see these ads and many other ads for yourself at, or on Twitter @nprinskeep.


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