Truth-tellers, liars and equivocators

A triple check: Obama-O'Malley rally at Bowie State

October 8, 2010 - 12:32 PM
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An early, incomplete version of this story was accidentally posted earlier today.

President Barack Obama wasn’t that far in to his stump speech yesterday at Bowie State University when a lone voice cried out from among the several thousand supporters. “You’re a liar,” the man exhorted. The crowd booed and shunned the heckler, who managed to declare that he thought Obama’s pants were on fire twice more before high-tailing it out of there.

Does he have a point? The Facts Machine can’t check every statement made by the parade of Democratic party officials at Thursday’s event, which lasted a little over two hours. But we picked out three we thought were interesting.

State Senate President Mike Miller (D-Calvert and Prince George’s) — Miller is one of the most powerful men in state government, having led the General Assembly's upper house since 1987. He was one of the early speakers at the rally, and got in some pretty good shots against Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Ehrlich and Republican U.S. Senate nominee Eric Wargotz.

Wargotz, a doctor and Queen Anne's County commissioner, is considered a long-shot in his challenge against entrenched Democratic incumbent Barbara Mikulski. But Miller attacked him in a way we had to check out.

Before we go further, let’s make one thing clear: Obama was born in the United States. More specifically, he was born in Honolulu on Aug. 4, 1961. This has been proven over and over again.

So when Miller claimed Wargotz "said he didn't know whether or not President Obama was born in the United States," he was placing the Republican out on the fringe of American politics. In a statewide race in Maryland, where Obama remains relatively popular, being a "birther" is almost a sure-fire path to defeat.

The source for Miller's statement is this YouTube clip. At the two-minute mark of the clip, Wargotz says: "I do not believe he was born in the United States."

He would later clarify his statement, telling Capital News Service he doesn't doubt that Obama is an American citizen and doesn't question the constitutionality of his presidency.

Miller never directly called Wargotz a "birther." His statement described the Republican's position as accurately as possible. It's an Honest Abe.

Honest Abe

Martin O'Malley and Barack Obama — Both men used the same statistic to explain Maryland's job growth to the crowd.

"Thanks to Martin O'Malley's leadership, Maryland has gained over 33,000 jobs since January, the best start of the year since the year 2000," Obama said.

"Thirty-three thousand net new jobs this year, our best year since the year 2000," O'Malley exclaimed.

We looked at the data and crunched the numbers because we know you all hate math. And after crunching them, we also hate math.

The O'Malley campaign pointed us to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' seasonally adjusted total non-farm employment numbers for Maryland. Sure enough, it shows Maryland adding 33,000 jobs between January and August, the last month for which data is available. When media outlets report on the unemployment rate, that's generally the statistic they're using.

Of course, Maryland lost a ton of jobs in the two years preceding this year's growth. And it's questionable how much the job growth owes to O'Malley's "leadership" rather than to the nascent national economic recovery.

January was the low-water mark for jobs in Maryland, so O'Malley picked his start date well. And this trend of job growth has slowed in different months.

Still, the stats are the stats, and O'Malley isn't shy to acknowledge the economic downturn. We hand out an Honest Abe.

Honest Abe

Obama (again): Obama also launched a direct attack on a popular liberal bogeyman from this election cycle: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

"Just this week, we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these ads regularly takes in money from foreign corporations," Obama said. "The groups that receive this foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections and they won't tell you where the money for their ads come from."

Is this major U.S. business group taking foreign cash? The liberal blog ThinkProgress outlined a way for their foreign outposts to funnel money into the fund the chamber uses for political advertising. The Chamber of Commerce, however, insists protections are in place to prevent foreign money from funding American political activity.

"We’re careful to ensure that we comply with all applicable laws. No foreign money is used to fund political activities," a spokesman told Politico.

Because there's no disclosure, it's hard to say for certain whether foreign funds are being used to attack American politicians.

We have Insufficient Evidence to Rule.

UPDATE, Oct. 11, 5:50 p.m. - Since we wrote this post, a lot more reporting has been done on the 'foreign money' claim. FactCheck.org, for one, points out that the Democrats haven't produced any hard evidence backing up their claim that the Chamber is breaking the law by spending international money on campaigns. While The Facts Machine isn't certain enough to make a final ruling, there are clear gaps in the Democratic argument.

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