NBC's 'Fact Check' on Palin's False Claims Not So Convincing
Up first, how Palin asserted “my job has been to oversee nearly 20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of oil and gas.” Guthrie pounced: “She's wrong. Alaska accounts for only 3.5 percent of America's total energy production, 7.5 percent of oil and gas.” Unmentioned by NBC: How the Alaska Resource Development Council's Web site has stated: “Alaska's oil and gas industry” accounts “for an average of 20 percent of the entire nation's domestic production.”
Moving on, Guthrie cited how “campaign aides told a few reporters” Palin had visited Iraq when she really only went to Kuwait and “an aide also said Palin visited Ireland,” but only because “her plane stopped at the airport to refuel.” Quoting how Palin said that “if you go back in history...many Vice Presidents” would also have answered they had not previously met a foreign leader, Guthrie countered: “But historians say the facts tell a different story.” She ran a soundbite from one historian, Michael Beschloss, who limited his review to how “since Pearl Harbor every single vice presidential candidate of a major party has had some pretty serious exposure to foreign leaders, with the exception of Spiro Agnew.” So, there was Agnew and all those pre-1944 were left unaddressed.
Finally, the media favorite: “Palin initially supported the bridge and killed it only after Congress pulled its backing.”
On energy production in Alaska, FactCheck.org reported on September 12 what Palin relied upon for the apparently exaggerated percentage:
When we asked the McCain campaign where the 20 percent figure came from, we were referred to the Web site of the Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc, a group that says it promotes development of Alaska's natural resources. It states:In a September 17 update, FactCheck.org added:
Alaska's oil and gas industry has produced more than 16 billion barrels of oil and 6 billion cubic feet of natural gas, accounting for an average of 20 percent of the entire nation's domestic production.
The Associated Press, in reporting on Palin's "inflated" energy claim, contacted the Alaska Resource Development Council and confirmed that its 20 percent figure is badly out of date. It quoted Carl Portman, the group's deputy director, as saying that the figure is an average for the decades of the 1980s and 1990s, which The AP noted was "long before Palin became governor at the end of 2006." Portman was quoted as saying his group "planned to update the site to make it more clear that the 20 percent figure is over a period of time."Williams introduced the story: “Hard to believe she made her convention debut just two weeks ago today in St. Paul....”
And indeed, when we checked, the Web page had been changed to say that the state's oil and gas industry accounted "for an average of 20 percent of the entire nation's domestic production (1980 - 2000). Currently, Alaska accounts for nearly 15% of U.S. production."
Eight days ago, he set up a September 9 story with the identical phraseology: “Hard to believe, it was just six nights ago Sarah Palin introduced herself to the GOP convention...”
My September 9 NewsBusters item, “CBS & NBC React to Palin Bounce with Fact Checks to Discredit Her,” recounted:
Brian Williams set up the NBC Nightly News piece: "Hard to believe, it was just six nights ago Sarah Palin introduced herself to the GOP convention and to the TV viewing nation with a speech that really made her a star while containing several memorable applause lines. It's how a lot of people came to know her, they remember those stories and Governor Palin repeated them on the stump. But how do they all match up against the truth? Our senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers takes a closer look."The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the story on the Wednesday, September 17 NBC Nightly News:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Hard to believe she made her convention debut just two weeks ago today in St. Paul. Americans, after all, are still getting to know her. Reporters are still fact-checking what they hear from her, as our own Savannah Guthrie does for us tonight.
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Her running mate has said she knows more about energy than anyone in America.
JOHN MCCAIN: She knows more about energy than probably anyone else in the United States of America.
GUTHRIE: And in her first television interview since being nominated, Sarah Palin herself said this:
SARAH PALIN: As the Governor of the state that produces nearly 20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of energy-
GUTHRIE: A remark she refined a bit this week.
PALIN: My job has been to oversee nearly 20 percent of the U.S. domestic supply of oil and gas.
GUTHRIE: But no matter how you slice it, she's wrong. Alaska accounts for only 3.5 percent of America's total energy production, 7.5 percent of oil and gas. A campaign spokesperson now says the Governor was only talking about oil.
MEGHAN STAPLETON, MCCAIN CAMPAIGN SPOKESPERSON: When you look at the domestic oil production, we do supply 15 to 20 percent.
GUTHRIE: On overseas travel, did she or didn't she go to Iraq? Campaign aides told a few reporters she did. The McCain campaign later backtracked, saying she visited a border crossing with Kuwait, going briefly into Iraq. But the Alaska National Guard says Palin never entered Iraq at all. An aide also said Palin visited Ireland, but the campaign had to backtrack again. Yes, she'd been to Ireland. Her plane stopped at the airport to refuel. Another question about her foreign policy credentials, has she ever met with foreign leaders? Palin said this in the ABC interview: “I've not, and I think if you go back in history and if you ask that question of many vice presidents, they may have the same answer as I just gave you.” But historians say the facts tell a different story.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Actually, if you look at history, since Pearl Harbor, every single vice presidential candidate of a major party has had some pretty serious exposure to foreign leaders, with the exception of Spiro Agnew.
GUTHRIE: And then there's that bridge in Alaska. As NBC reported-
PALIN: I support these infrastructure projects-
GUTHRIE: -Palin initially supported the bridge and killed it only after Congress pulled its backing. The state kept the money. But the McCain campaign continues to tout Palin's opposition to the bridge. This campaign ad aired just last night during network newscasts:
CLIP OF AD: She stopped the Bridge to Nowhere.
GUTHRIE: And it's a line Sarah Palin rarely misses an opportunity to repeat.
PALIN CLIP #1: -I did tell Congress thanks but no thanks-
PALIN CLIP #2: -thanks but no thanks-
PALIN CLIP #3: -thanks but no thanks on that Bridge to Nowhere.
GUTHRIE: Even now, the bridge project isn't dead. At Palin's direction, Alaska's department of transportation is still considering alternatives to link the town of Ketchikan to its airport, including several bridge proposals, with federal earmark dollars. The McCain campaign has carefully controlled access to Palin, including during her stop here today in Michigan. But both sides are fiercely battling over her record. McCain has launched a Palin truth squad while Obama's team has assembled what it calls Palin Myth Busters. Savannah Guthrie, NBC News, Grand Rapids, Michigan.