It's become a case of the unsubstantiated vs. the discredited.
Mitt Romney's never-supported boast to have created more than 100,000 jobs as a venture capitalist has been countered by an attack film so flawed that the Republican presidential rival it was meant to help, Newt Gingrich, has asked the sponsoring political action committee to correct it or take it out of circulation.
Meanwhile, voters are no farther ahead in knowing whether Romney's work at Bain Capital _ a complex record of company start-ups, revivals, flops and shutdowns _ cost more jobs than it created, though there is gathering evidence it was not as rosy as he has portrayed.
Into the mix: "King of Bain: When Mitt Romney Came to Town," a dark tale casting Romney as a rapacious profiteer who makes vultures look like songbirds.
The 28-minute film, bankrolled by the Gingrich-friendly Winning Our Future super PAC, blames Romney for company shutdowns he had no part in and twists interviews with laid-off factory workers to convey resentments against him that didn't exist.
Just as Romney ignored the negative side of the ledger in his bragging, the film ignores the positive side. It does not back up its claim that "nearly every U.S. state experienced job loss from the actions of Bain Capital under Mitt Romney." That assertion might be true if the closure of a national toy retailer counts, but Romney left Bain's management before it purchased, much less dismantled, KB Toys.
"King of Bain" presents four case studies of plants or companies shut by Romney and Bain, but three of the closures happened after he left.
Despite Gingrich's appeal to correct or take down the ads, by law he can't direct the actions of a super PAC. Ads drawn from "King of Bain" stand to benefit him _ by denigrating Romney _ for as long as they are running in the South Carolina primary campaign. The PAC said it will fix any errors if Romney answers several questions to help determine what is wrong, an approach that buys time for the ads.
Absent Romney's response, "we stand by the film" and "absolutely" will keep running it, Rick Tyler, senior adviser to Winning Our Future, said on "Fox News Sunday," even while acknowledging "hyperbole" in one claim it makes.
A look at some of the film's claims and how they compare with the facts:
UNIMAC CORP.: "Romney and Bain upended the company and gutted the workforce."
THE FACTS: Romney left Bain management a year after his company bought the Marianna, Fla., plant and seven years before it was shut. Moreover, Bain didn't do it. Bain sold the plant to a Canadian concern in 2005. A year after that, the new owners closed the plant and moved operations _ manufacturing commercial laundry equipment _ to Wisconsin, where it remains in business. Romney ceased operational control of Bain in February 1999, when he left to run the 2002 Olympics, and severed remaining legal ties with the company in 2001.
The film has interviews with three former plant workers, who are presented as if they lost their UniMac jobs under Bain. But all three told The Wall Street Journal they received pay raises and multiple promotions while Bain owned the plant and hold no grudge against Romney or his old company. They said they were paid for the interviews, not told of its purpose and had their words taken terribly out of context.
KB TOYS: "Romney and Bain bought the 80-year-old company in 2000, loaded KB Toys with millions in debt, then used the money to repurchase Bain stock. The debt was too staggering. ... Romney and Bain's profits at the expense of 15,000 jobs was described by the Boston Herald as `disgusting.'"
THE FACTS: Romney was in no position to plunder the toy company because he left Bain before it bought KB Toys in 2000. The retailer was finally liquidated in 2009, a decade after he moved on. Fierce competition from superstore chains was a factor in KB's collapse, not just debt.
The Boston Herald did not brand Bain's profits "disgusting," as the film claims. Instead, a story in the newspaper quoted a former worker as saying so. He was criticizing another Bain executive-turned-politician, Stephen Pagliuca, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination to replace the late Sen. Edward Kennedy in 2009.
DDi CORP.: Romney and Bain wrung "enormous financial gain" out of the California tech manufacturing and engineering company by firing employees and dumping stock before it went into bankruptcy.
THE FACTS: The transactions charted in the film come after Romney's tenure at Bain, though he is believed to have profited from DDi stock sales after his departure. Viewers aren't told the Anaheim company blamed the bursting of the dot-com bubble for its fall, that it emerged from bankruptcy and is in business today.
AMPAD: "That hurt so bad, to leave my home, because of one man that's got 15 homes."
THE FACTS: That comment was from an interview in the film with a Marion, Ind., woman identified as a former American Pad & Paper worker, and it captures authentic grievances against Romney and Bain over the closure of the plant there in 1995. But Romney doesn't have anywhere near 15 homes, a fact the filmmakers did not feel obliged to explain.
"It was hyperbole," Tyler said Sunday. "Are we going to fact-check hyperbole?"
Romney says he owns three homes. He also has a Lake Huron cottage in Canada that has long been in the family.
Ampad is the only example in "King of Bain" that substantially overlaps Romney's tenure, and it is one he has needed to deal with before.
After Bain acquired the company in 1992, it cut 385 jobs and closed two U.S. plants, moves that became the subject of Democratic campaign ads against him when he ran unsuccessfully against Kennedy for the Senate in 1994. The episode also was in an issue in his successful 2002 race for Massachusetts governor.
Associated Press writer Jim Drinkard contributed to this report.