NBC News's Mark Murray More Nuanced On Janesville GM Plant Closing Than MSNBC Crowd, But Still Misleads Viewers

While the Obama acolytes at MSNBC are insisting that the Janesville, Wisconsin, GM plant was "closed" in December 2008 on President Bush's watch, NBC News senior political editor Mark Murray was more nuanced in an appearance with Thomas Roberts on MSNBC shortly after 2:30 p.m. Eastern today. Even so, Murray's reporting was misleading and is easily negated by a Web search turning up reporting by the Janesville [Wis.] Gazette from February 2009.

Here's what Murray told Roberts:


Well, the context is, Thomas, that that plant ended up closing effectively before president Obama took office in late December of 2008. And so allies of President Obama said there is nothing that he actually could have done. This happened before he took office.

The Romney campaign points out that there were still a few operations -- it had to do with more of Isuzu Motors rather than GM that were coming out of that -- after December 2008. But for all intents and purposes, that plant was pretty much closed down before President Obama took office.

As we have documented, the liberals at MSNBC have gone ballistic, insisting that Paul Ryan lied about the date of the Janesville, Wisconsin, plant's closing. Janesville, of course, is Ryan's hometown and lies within his congressional district.

But, for one thing, in last night's speech, Ryan did not directly blame the plant's closing on President Obama, but rather said:

Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said, "I believe that if our government is there to support you, this plant will be here for another hundred years." That's what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn't last another year.

In other words, campaigning on hope and change, then-Sen. Obama optimistically held forth that a government bailout would save the Janesville plant. Alas, the government bailed out GM, but GM didn't save the plant from being shuttered.

Technically speaking, the Janesville plant is on "standby" and has been since after assembly line operations ceased in the spring of 2009. GM still owns the 4.8-million sq. ft. vacant plant but nothing is being done with it and the company is trying to figure out if they should sell the property.

On Thursday, February 19, 2009, the Janesville Gazette's Jim Leute reported:

General Motors will end medium-duty truck production in Janesville on April 23, four months to the day after the plant stopped building full-size sport utility vehicles.

About 100 employees associated with the line learned of the layoffs Wednesday.

[...]

...if the past is any indication, GM has established a pattern for its non-production plants.

GM likely will deploy what it calls a "reuse team" to Janesville to assess everything in the plant. Equipment that can be salvaged for use in other plants will be saved. Equipment GM doesn't want will find its way to auction.

GM also is likely to launch concurrent surveys of the plant's environmental status and any possible reuses for the property. Such studies could take six months to a year.

The environmental assessment will include soil and groundwater testing, and if a cleanup is necessary, GM will develop a plan in conjunction with state and federal environmental agencies.

In the meantime, GM likely will try to market the property. A real estate development company likely will be hired to determine possible uses and values.

A local task force, however, hopes that can all be avoided. The group is lobbying the automaker to award Janesville a different product.

The group met with GM officials last fall but has been held at bay while the automaker tries to sort out its massive financial problems.

But alas, local efforts to get GM to restart production at the plant failed. From a September 19, 2011 Wall Street Journal report entitled "GM Janesville plant still on standby" (emphases mine):

General Motors Co. has committed to reopen its idled plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., and keep its shuttered assembly plant in Janesville on standby status.

The commitment to the former Saturn plant in Tennessee was part of a contract settlement reached late last week between GM and the United Auto Workers union.

Since they were shut down in 2009, both the Janesville and Tennessee plants have been on standby status, meaning they were not producing vehicles, but they were not completely shut down.

The UAW was seeking a commitment from the company to add jobs and reopen idled plants as part of talks on a new four-year contract.

Under terms of the contract, UAW members will receive $5,000 signing bonuses and the possibility of sweeter profit-sharing checks, two people briefed on the talks told the Associated Press.

Auto industry observer David Cole, chairman emeritus of the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Center for Automotive Research, said it would be premature to say the Janesville plant will never reopen.

"If we get back to any kind of a reasonable market, with 15- or 16 million sales, then I think that's going to require Janesville as well," he said.

But the economy is recovering more slowly than people anticipated. "That's really the key factor," Cole said. "You're going to see the company be exceedingly cautious on overcapacity. And they obviously didn't need a commitment for Janesville to get the UAW's support."

[...]

The Janesville plant stopped production of SUVs in 2008 and was idled in 2009 after it completed production of medium-duty trucks.

Remaining on standby means not much has changed in Janesville. Community leaders say they would be ready if the GM plant reopened, but no one seems to be counting on that.

"I think there are a lot of people that would love to see General Motors come back to this area and provide good quality manufacturing jobs," said Bob Borremans, executive director of the Southwest Wisconsin Workforce Development Board. "If we fit into their future and they come back, people would (welcome) that with great anticipation and open arms.

"Do most people think something will happen? Not for the foreseeable future."

Long-term, anything is possible, he added.

"We don't want to dismiss anything out of hand at this point, but I don't think there's anybody really holding their breath waiting for General Motors to activate that plant again and move it to production," he said.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters