Fact-Checking Obama, Romney Ahead of Debates: Blue Truth, Red Truth
No one would ever mistake the White House press briefing room for a courthouse or a confessional, so the blue curtains and official seal made an ironic backdrop this summer for President Obama’s impromptu homily on honesty in public life. “The truth of the matter is you can’t just make stuff up,” he told the scribblers who get paid to check his facts. “That’s one thing you learn as President of the United States. You get called in to account.” It was just what reporters wanted to hear, even if it was not exactly true.
At the time, Obama was speaking about a campaign ad from Mitt Romney that falsely claimed that the President had eliminated the work requirement for welfare. The ad was unmistakably deceptive. But just five minutes earlier in the very same press conference, Obama had offered some misdirection of his own. “Nobody accused Mr. Romney of being a felon,” he said. In fact, one of the President’s senior strategists, Stephanie Cutter, told reporters a month earlier that Romney was misrepresenting himself either to the American people or to securities regulators — “which is a felony,” she said.
Cutter’s was a conditional accusation but an accusation nonetheless, and at the time it allowed the Romney campaign to take its turn playing truth teller. “A reckless and unsubstantiated charge,” protested Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades, who asked Obama to apologize. Of course, no apology was forthcoming. So the posturing got worse.