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Four Pinnochios

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

The SuperPAC supporting Barack Obama, PrioritiesUSA Action, has produced an ad showing a man who claims is wife died of cancer because the steel plant at which he worked was closed by Mitt Romney.


When he lost his job, Joe Soptic says, he lost his health insurance. "A short time later," he says, his wife got sick, but didn't tell him because they didn't have insurance. By the time he took her to the hospital she was diagnosed with cancer from which she died about two weeks later.

The story is true in its facts, but it is a total lie in the effects of Bain Capital closing the plant.

Priorities USA has not, to my knowledge, spent a dime putting this ad on any cable station, much less a broadcast outlet. It is all in the media and in the close circle of political chatter that it has gotten all the attention.

According to the Washington Post here's what really happened.

-- Bain bought the steel company in 1993. However, it had already gone from 4,500 workers in 1970 to about 1,500 workers in 1983. So, 10 years before Bain bought it, the company was in distress

-- In 1997 the union of which Soptic was a member, went on strike over personal benefits.

-- In 2001, with high debt, high electricity prices, and high natural gas prices the company declared bankruptcy as did "more than two dozen steel companies during that period."

-- By that time Romney was not actively managing operations at Bain Capital.

Ok, that's the story of the company. What about the story of the Soptics?

More from the WaPo Fact Checker:

-- Soptic's wife had her own health insurance from her own job at the time the plant closed in 2001.

-- According to CNN, Soptic's wife left her job in 2002 or 2003 because of an injury which was when she lost her health insurance.

-- According to the Kansas City Star, Mrs. Soptic died Kansas City Star reported in June 2006.

-- That's five years after Joe Soptic lost his job at the steel plant.


The Washington Post ended its analysis with:

"A case could be made that Bain's involvement extended the life of a dying steel plant, in which case Soptic kept his insurance longer than he might have expected."

"On just every level, this ad stretches the bounds of common sense and decency."

For all of that, the Washington Post - not known as a mouthpiece for Republican causes - awarded the ad four "Pinnochios" - which is jamming the lie-meter to the far end of the scale.

But wait! There's more!

The lies just kept on coming when the Obama campaign - including White House aides - said they didn't know nothin' about no Joe Soptic. Can't coordinate with a SuperPAC you know. Don't know the guy. Don't know where the PAC got the footage of him.


Stephanie Cutter - who was one of the most senior Obama White House aides until she left to be one of the most senior advisors to the Obama campaign - was among those who denied knowing anything about Soptic's story.

But reported yesterday afternoon that "Cutter hosted an Obama campaign conference call in May in which Soptic told reporters the very story featured in the Priorities spot."

To the surprise of no one, Bill Burton - the former deputy White House Press Secretary - who runs the PAC said they found the footage "at a union hall" but "we didn't know that he was doing an [Obama campaign] ad."

In another Washington Post piece, reporter Nia-Malika Henderson writes:

"Joe Soptic, 62, has become a go-to figure for supporters of President Obama, appearing this week in his second campaign ad talking about being laid off from a Kansas City, Mo., steel plant that was taken over by Bain Capital in 1993."

Later, she quotes Soptic himself as saying:

"I think the reason they keep coming back to me is because of everything that has happened in our life since the plant closed."

So, a Washington Post reporter knew that Joe Soptic had been used in an Obama campaign ad, Joe Soptic knew he had been used in an Obama campaign ad, the only people who don't know Joe Soptic had been used in an Obama campaign ad is the Obama campaign.

Good thing lying to reporters isn't a criminal offense.

To misquote Roy Scheider's character, Chief Brody, in "Jaws": "I think we're gonna need more Pinnochios."

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