Saturday, July 26, 2014

Grimes keeps hammering McConnell on jobs remark, but ads don't tell the whole story, fact-checkers say

By Megan Ingros and Al Cross
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

The defining moment of Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race, as Democratic nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes would have it, was Sen. Mitch McConnell’s April 18 comment to a weekly newspaper in Lee County that bringing jobs there “is not my job.”

The remark has fueled attack ads from Grimes and responses from McConnell, the latest round this month. Several fact checkers have said it doesn’t tell the whole story.

Grimes began the exchanges in early June, with a 60-second radio ad that mainly attacked President Obama’s anti-coal regulations but also mentioned McConnell’s comment to The Beattyville Enterprise.

Politifact, the fact-checking service of the Tampa Bay Times, found the charge “half true,” saying that it had no reason to doubt the newspaper, but noting that “McConnell also told the paper that he has a responsibility to protect jobs, and that some of his work in Congress has led to job creation in Kentucky. In addition, McConnell’s legislative record shows a concern for local employment.”

In early July, national Democrats' Senate Majority PAC released a television attack ad on McConnell in which Kentucky residents say jobs should be a top priority for a senator, and express dismay at McConnell’s remark.

Grimes attacked again on July 22 with a TV ad featuring unemployed coal miner David Stanley, who says: “Mr. McConnell, in the last two years, we’ve lost almost half of our coal jobs in Eastern Kentucky. Why’d you say it’s not your job to bring jobs to Kentucky?” As Grimes and Stanley wait for an answer that never comes, an image of the Beattyville newspaper story appears on the screen. Grimes says job growth will be her top priority if elected.

Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett defended McConnell, telling the Lexington Herald-Leader that it was “unfair and untrue” to blame him for the loss of those jobs.

Nevertheless, McConnell released an ad one day later, saying he “saved” a Louisville company with a bill he got passed in 2012 “That law imposes duties on imported foreign products that receive subsidies from communist governments,” reports Louisville’s WDRB-TV.  Joe Arnold of Louisville's WHAS-TV reported, “Our check of the legislative record confirms the ad is accurate.”

Arnold said of Grimes’s ad, “The question itself is questionable,” because she extends the remark to apply to jobs in Kentucky, not Lee County, and for the same reasons Politifact judged the radio ad to be half-true.

Grimes responded with a statement claiming that “Under McConnell, Kentucky has lost tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs, while he has spent years supporting tax breaks that encourage companies to ship good Kentucky overseas.” The campaign also said McConnell had not stood up to China’s currency manipulations, and it issued a web ad suggesting that McConnell cared more about creating jobs in China than in the U.S.

Beattyville Enterprise Editor Edmund Shelby stood by his article in a statement on June 24: “There is no way that was taken out of context and his campaign’s claim that it was lost in translation is ridiculous because we were both speaking in English. He committed the cardinal sin of any career politician: He gave a straight answer to a straight question.”

The entire story in The Beattyville Enterprise
McConnell has said Shelby quoted him out of context. The immediate context, as Shelby wrote it, was: “McConnell was asked by The Beattyville Enterprise what he was going to do to bring jobs to Lee County.” He quoted McConnell as replying, “Economic development is a Frankfort issue. That is not my job. it is the primary responsibility of the state Commerce Cabinet,” the former name of the Cabinet for Economic Development.

Shelby asked McConnell about public-works projects, and the senator said he was interested in those, but added, “Most comes from the state, though.” Shelby also wrote, “He did say that he is responsible for protecting jobs by ‘pushing back’ against the Obama administration’s restrictions on the coal industry.” 

The most detailed analysis of the controversy was published Friday, July 25 by, a service of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. In a 1,700-word story, writer Robert Farley detailed the progression of the controversy and concluded, “McConnell’s statements make clear that he sees job creation as part of his job description.”

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