TV news fact-checked: Gianforte, Gingrich, Pelosi & more

By Nancy Watzman and Katie Dahl

In this week’s round-up from the TV News Archive,  our fact-checking partners declare that Greg Gianforte, now Montana’s U.S. House representative-elect, was the aggressor in a conflict with a reporter; Newt Gingrich spread a conspiracy theory; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi stretched claims about how veterans could be hurt under the House GOP health care bill; and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney double-counted money.

Claim: Guardian reporter’s aggression, not Gianforte’s, caused altercation (flip that)

On May 24 a campaign spokesperson for Greg Gianforte, who has since won the Montana U.S. House race, said, “Tonight, as Greg was giving a separate interview in a private office, The Guardian‘s Ben Jacobs entered the office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg’s face, and began asking badgering questions. Jacobs was asked to leave. After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg’s wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground. It’s unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ.”

As reported by John Kruzel and Smitha Rajan for PolitiFact, a Fox News reporter was in the room at the time and gave this account. “…Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him. Faith, Keith and I watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter.” Gianforte has since apologized.

Claim: DNC staffer assassinated after giving emails to WikiLeaks (unsupported)

Newt Gingrich, a former Republican House Speaker, said in a TV interview, “we have this very strange story now of this young man who worked for the Democratic National Committee, who apparently was assassinated at 4 in the morning, having given WikiLeaks something like 23,000. I’m sorry, 53,000 emails and 17,000 attachments.”

“Gingrich Spreads Conspiracy Theory,” read a headline from FactCheck.org. Eugene Kiely reported “there’s no evidence for his claim.” PunditFact, a project of PolitiFact, gave Gingrich its worst fact-check rating, Pants on Fire.  Lauren Carroll reported, “Hours after Fox published its report, (Rod) Wheeler recanted. He told CNN that he hadn’t seen the evidence himself, and his knowledge of Rich’s alleged email contact with WikiLeaks came from the national Fox News reporter, not his own investigative work.”

(Note: Kiely also made use of the Wayback Machine in his piece, linking to a now-deleted Fox News story now saved at the Internet Archive. Washington Post reporters Kristine Phillips and Peter Holley published similar links in their story on how Fox News retracted its story on Seth Rich.)

Claim: seven million veterans will lose tax credit for their families in health care bill (three Pinocchios)

During a speech at a conference hosted by the Center for American Progress, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D., Calif., said of the House-passed GOP health care reform bill, “Seven million veterans will lose their tax credit for their families in this bill.”

Michelle Ye Hee Lee reported for The Washington Post’s Fact Checker that “veterans ‘could’ — not ‘will,’ as Pelosi says — lose tax credits if the current protections don’t carry over under a new health law… Would it affect 7 million veterans and their families? Not necessarily.”

Claim: economic growth will pay for both eliminating the deficit and tax cuts (wait a minute)

In a press conference about President Trump’s proposed 2018 fiscal budget, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said “we get to an actual balance on this budget within the 10-year window,” because “we will bring back 3% economic growth to this country and those numbers are assumed in this budget. By the way if we don’t the budget will never balance. You will never see a balanced budget again. We refuse to accept that the new normal in this country. Three percent was the old normal. Three percent will be the new normal again under the Trump administration and that is part and parcel with the foundation of this budget.” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin also claimed economic growth would pay for the proposed revenue-neutral tax plan, “This will pay for itself with growth and with reduced — reduction of different deductions and closing loopholes.”

“Wait a minute, say tax and budget experts, that’s double-counting the same money,” reported Robert Farley of FactCheck.org. Roberton Williams of the Tax Policy Center told FactCheck.org that you can’t assume growth will balance the budget and offset tax cuts, “Both of those are not plausible,” he said

Claim: Manafort and others visited Moscow during the campaign (mostly false)

In a TV interview, Rep. Maxine Waters, D., Calif., said “I really do believe that much of what you saw coming out of Trump’s mouth was a play from Putin’s playbook… I think you can see visits, you know, to Moscow made during the campaign by (Paul) Manafort and others.”

“From what’s on the public record, Manafort didn’t go at all, and (Carter) Page went once… Waters made it sound like this was a regular occurrence. We rate this claim Mostly False.” Jon Greenberg reported for PolitiFact.

Claim: Wisconsin high-risk pool had 8 or 9 plans, people could go to any doctor, and premiums and copays were cheaper than Obamacare (half true)

In response to criticism from Democrats for the House-passed health care proposal, Rep. Paul Ryan, R., Wis., said “In Wisconsin, we had a really successful high-risk pool. Ten percent of the people in the individual market in Wisconsin were in the state high-risk pool. They had eight or nine plans to choose from. They could go to any doctor or any hospital they wanted. And their premiums and copays were cheaper than they are under Obamacare today.”

For PolitiFact, Tom Kertscher reported “He’s essentially on target on the first two parts, but not on the third… it can’t be flatly stated that the high-risk pool plans were cheaper than Obamacare plans for comparable coverage.”

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About Nancy Watzman

Nancy Watzman is Managing Editor, Television Archive.
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