You don’t see this very often, and especially in contrast with the recent New York Times debate over “truth vigilantes” (that term will never, ever get lived down) it deserves some praise. ABC’s Jake Tapper reports on the latest political ad produced by the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity (a.k.a. The People Who Own You), and in the process completely dismembers it:

Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group that promotes lower taxes and fewer regulations for businesses, is unleashing a $6 million ad campaign against President Obama leading up to the State of the Union on January 24, ABC News has learned.

The ad contains claims that are not tethered to facts. […]

The 60-second TV ad seems an attempt to muddy the waters amidst the charges against GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney and his tenure at Bain Capital, a firm that engaged in leveraged buyouts of companies that sometimes cost American workers their jobs, a fact that Romney’s opponents both Democrat and Republican are pouncing upon. In the new AFP ad, the president is depicted as backing $535 million in loan guarantees to Solyndra because campaign contributors ran the company. […]

That White House officials “knew all along” that Solyndra would have to fire their workers isn’t true. […]

The ad features George Stephanopoulos asking President Obama in an October 2011 ABC News/Yahoo interview if he regretted holding up Solyndra as a model for jobs and clean energy.

In the ad, the president replies, “No I don’t…overall it’s doing well.”

The full quote is: “No, I don’t, because if you look at the overall portfolio of loan guarantees that have been provided– overall, it’s doing well.”

That’s actual reporting, right there. A report on a major political ad buy (the point at which most news reports would end), coupled with an analysis of which claims in the ad are clearly and objectively false. Both are important information for readers.

So if an ad has information that can be quickly and easily proven false—for example, doctored quotes—should television stations run it? And what possible repercussions should it have on the group that produced it, especially if they have a history of peddling similarly doctored information?

We’ll see on those last two fronts, but I think credit has to be given for a reporter taking the obviously necessary first step: pointing out when someone in politics is lying, and calling them out on it. That’s what political reporting should be.
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