Last week Governor Romney was interviewed by Bret Baier of Fox News. In the interview, Baier said, “You have been on both sides of some issues. . . .There is video of you changing your position on a whole host of issues from climate change to immigration to abortion to gay rights to health care.” Romney replied “Well Bret, your list is just not accurate. So, one, we are going to have to be better informed about my views on issues and, two, it’s good to see the ads from the Democrats are being seen here at Fox.”
This testy exchange drew a lot of news coverage last week and so the “fact-checkers” at FactCheck.org, Politifact, and the Washington Post decided to do some research to find out who was right and who was wrong. For those who may not know, fact-checkers are organizations that are not affiliated with any political party or candidate. The goal of these fact-checkers is to provide the public with unbiased, independent research on claims being thrown around in the media.
Well, the fact-checkers did their analysis of this interview and, even though I generally like Bret Baier, there is no other way to describe it but as a huge embarrassment for Mr. Baier. The fact-checkers found that Romney has been very consistent on the topics Baier listed. Lets look at the topics mentioned by Baier one by one and see what the fact-checkers concluded.
1) Climate Change – After the Democrats ran an ad last month showing a supposed change in Romney’s position on the cause of global warming, the fact-checkers at the Washington Post concluded there was “No Flip Flop” saying:
The statements in question were made just months apart, and as far as we can tell, Romney’s policies on global warming did not change. A Romney spokesman said immediately following the speech in question that “Governor Romney’s view on climate change has not changed. He believes it’s occurring, and that human activity contributes to it, but he doesn’t know to what extent.”
We try not to play gotcha. Given that his spokeswoman immediately restated the position that Romney originally expressed, we are inclined to believe he did not change his position, especially since his book “No Apology” (page 227) also made clear that he believed that “human activity is a contributing factor.”
2) Immigration – The people at FactCheck.org concluded that there was “No Flip Flop” in Romney’s position on immigration. Here is their analysis:
“The DNC ad claims that Romney flip-flopped on immigration, showing clips from the presidential debate on Oct. 18 in Las Vegas. The ad shows Romney saying, “I don’t think I’ve ever hired an illegal in my life,” followed by another clip from the same debate in which Romney says, “We hired a lawn company to mow our lawn, and they had illegal immigrants that were working there.” The ad omits the next sentence from Romney’s debate response, in which he says, “And when that was pointed out to us, we let them go.”
It was an embarrassment for Romney, but not a flip-flop.
As we wrote when the debate first aired, there is no evidence that Romney knowingly hired illegal immigrants.
3) Gay Rights – FactCheck.org also concluded “No Flip Flop.” Here is the analysis done by the folks at FactCheck:
The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy since has been overturned. When Romney was asked about it in a Republican presidential debate on June 13, he said, “I believe that ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ should have been kept in place until conflict was over.”
Are those comments in direct conflict with what Romney said his 1994 letter to the Log Cabin Club? Not really. He said in 1994 that he “ultimately” would like to see gays and lesbians “being able to serve openly and honestly in our nation’s military.” And we see no evidence that he’s retreated from that carefully hedged position, much as his recent comments may have disappointed gay-rights advocates. Currently Romney is saying the timing was still not right to change the policy, while the nation was at war. That’s less forceful language than he used in his letter to the Log Cabin Club, but to qualify as a flip-flop he would have to say he no longer favors seeing gays serve openly at any time.
4) Health Care Reform – Did Romney want RomneyCare to be a “model for the nation?” – All three fact-check organizations looked into this claim and all three found that Romney has not flip-flopped in regard to this claim. The conclusion from Politifact is here, the FactCheck summary is here, and the Washington Post article is here. It is very clear to those who have taken the time to investigate this issue that Romney has never changed his position in regard to health care reform. For those in the press to continue repeating this falsehood shows a true lack of journalistic integrity. Romney has always spoken in favor of state-led initiatives where the each state is free to adopt whatever policies will work best for that particular state.
5) Abortion – Romney freely acknowledged all the way back in 2007 during his first presidential run that he changed his position with regard to the government’s role on abortion. As Romney said during the interview, many other leaders of the pro-life movement such as Ronald Reagan also changed their position on abortion during their careers. The story of Romney’s conversion to the pro-life movement can be read here.
As I have said before, the press (including Mr. Baier) has gotten lazy in regard to Romney. All too often they claim “flip-flop” when in fact there is none. No wonder Romney got testy during the interview and expressed afterwords that he was dissatisfied with the direction of the interview. I think Bret Baier owes Romney an apology for misstating Romney’s views. As the fact-checkers show, Bret Baier was clearly incorrect when he said Romney had changed his position on a “whole host of issues” from climate change to immigration to abortion to gay rights to health care.
Chris Wallace of Fox News Sunday has an interview scheduled with Romney on Dec. 18. Let’s hope that Wallace does a better job than Baier of researching the facts before he starts asking questions.
Any comments on some of the misconceptions you have seen in the press? What do you think is the most common misconception people have about Romney?