The “Lie of the Year”: Mitt Romney’s China Ad

Last year, the increasingly exasperating pedants at Politifact decided that the biggest lie in politics was “the Ryan plan essentially ends Medicare.” People pointed out that the claim was actually true, it came from a straight-news Wall Street Journal lede, and that Ryan himself had campaigned for the honor. Politifact scrambled a bit to explain the decision.

This year they went with an actual lie.

PolitiFact has selected Romney’s claim that Barack Obama “sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China” at the cost of American jobs as the 2012 Lie of the Year.

I spotlight this, in part, to defend the honor of the campaign press corps. Over the weekend, Dan Froomkin dominated the Huffington Post – 30,000+ Facebook shares – with a piece arguing that this corps “bungled the single biggest story of the 2012 campaign.” That story was “the radical right-wing, off-the-rails lurch of the Republican Party,” which enabled “fabulists and liars [to] exploit the elite media’s fear of being seen as taking sides.”

Froomkin’s proof? Two Washington think-tankers, Tom Mann and Norm Ornstein, wrote a book that placed most of the blame for political dysfunction with the GOP, and the media didn’t cover them, really. It was a strange news hook, because reporters like Greg Sargent had been writing about a “Mann/Ornstein blackout” since May. It was also extremely beltway-centric, judging the health of the media on whether reporters talked to two particular scholar-pundits based near Dupont Circle.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party was losing the 2012 election. One reason, according to the exit polls, was that voters blamed them for Washington dysfunction. In Ohio, more voters thought Romney “attacked unfairly” than thought this of Barack Obama. There was a consequence to lying, because reporters did cover the lying.

A little respect, please, for reporters who aren’t drinking the Potomac poison. They weren’t missing any story.