WaPo: Say, Terry McAuliffe Struggles with Telling the Truth, Huh?

Daniel Doherty

10/11/2013 10:15:00 AM - Daniel Doherty

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe (D-VA) may be a slick politician and perhaps the next governor of Virginia, but that isn’t stopping the Washington Post from musing about his reputation as an embellisher and exaggerator on the campaign trail. Case in point:

It’s a standard nugget in Terry McAuliffe’s stump speech, a tale of government procurement gone so bad that $800 taxpayer-funded chairs blocked the careers of 100 would-be nursing students.

Very little of it is true.

Here’s how the Democratic candidate for governor has been telling it:

McAuliffe met a college president who grumbled about having to buy campus furnishings from the state. Assembled by prisoners under a training program, the furniture is overpriced, with some chairs costing $800. If the school, Piedmont Virginia Community College, could buy from private stores instead, it could use the savings to enroll the 100 qualified nursing students it turns away each year

Got that? The Post then explained why the story is more or less a complete fabrication:

Piedmont hasn’t turned away anything close to 100 applicants for nursing school. Even if it had, the college could not possibly squeeze the $400,000-a-year cost of instructing them out of its prison furniture purchases, which were below $100,000 last year. Piedmont is not even required to buy furniture from the state, though it must get a waiver to shop elsewhere.

As for the “$800 chairs,” McAuliffe’s campaign tried to back up that claim by providing information about a single $600 chair.

Whether McAuliffe or the college president, Frank Friedman, got the details wrong is unclear — and neither will say. Friedman declined through a spokeswoman to be interviewed. McAuliffe spokesman Josh Schwerin said only that the candidate never meant to suggest that furniture savings alone would solve the instructor shortage at public colleges across Virginia.

But the story fits a pattern of exaggerations and embellishments that have peppered Mc­Auliffe’s public pronouncements over the years.

Two more examples from Terry McAuliffe’s past in which he exaggerated his accomplishments -- or made outrageous claims that later turned out to be false:

In his failed bid for his party’s gubernatorial nod four years ago, McAuliffe or his staff had to walk back comments about how many houses he had built and how many toilets he had personally inspected in a housing complex he owned. He claimed to have started five businesses in Northern Virginia; all turned out to be investment partnerships with no employees, registered to his McLean home.

And when he launched an electric car company in 2009, McAuliffe said it would create 900 jobs by the end of 2012 and 10,000 cars in 2013. Today, fewer than 100 workers produce about one car every two or three days, workers told The Washington Post.

In fairness, the Post notes matter-of-factly that all politicians lie when they’re trying to win elected office -- or at the very least embellish their own records for political gain. I don’t disagree. But McAuliffe’s inclination “to stretch the truth stands out by the standards of politicians,” WaPo muses. In other words, his reputation for stretching the truth almost makes the most unscrupulous political hucksters in America look like honest men by comparison. And that’s quite an “accomplishment,” if you ask me.