NEWS & DOCUMENTARIES | HERE AND NOW TRANSCRIPT

Frederica Freyberg:

Moving back to election news, it's no wonder democratic recall contender Tom Barrett asked other dem candidates to sign a clean campaign pledge. He's still burning about an internet video that the public employees union distributed to members last week. The video forwarded by AFSCME made out that Barrett supported Governor Walker’s Act 10, that eliminated most collective bargaining rights for public workers.

YouTube Video:

(Tom Barrett’s voice): And the bill will pass. And the bill should pass. And the bill will pass. And the bill should pass.

Frederica Freyberg:

Selective editing, to be sure, and untrue, but we'll get to that. Remember, AFSCME has endorsed Barrett’s democratic challenger, Kathleen Falk. Here was Mayor Barrett on our program last week.

Tom Barrett:

Well, I think the worst thing we could do as democrats is form a firing squad and line up in a circle. And quite honestly, the actions this week of AFSCME point exactly to why I think this is a concern. AFSCME has attacked me. So if you want to guarantee that Governor Scott Walker is reelected, you should continue to do what AFSCME is doing, which is attacking other democrats.

Frederica Freyberg:

The union said this week they said they used poor judgment in directing its members’ attention to the video, that the union acknowledges went over the top to make its point. Still, AFSCME says it stands by its criticisms of the Milwaukee mayor for taking too many concessions from city workers, which Barrett defends.

Tom Barrett:

Here’s the situation we faced in Milwaukee. This is faced by mayors and councils throughout the state of Wisconsin. We received almost a $15 million cut in aid from the state government.

Frederica Freyberg:

But back to the facts of it, the Politifacts. This week, we begin a new series. Our partners at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel put what the candidates, campaigns and special interests say to the truth test. It’s called Politifact. We take up this AFSCME slam piece against Tom Barrett with the team leader on the Journal Sentinel's truth squad, Politifact editor Greg Borowski. Thanks a lot for being here.

Greg Borowski:

Glad to do it.

Frederica Freyberg:

First of all, what did the truth-o-meter conclude about this video that was sent around by AFSCME?

Greg Borowski:

The claim we rated was that Tom Barrett actively supported the collective bargaining changes, and actually pushed a strategy to get them passed. And we rated that false, because his position was much different than it was described by the union.

Frederica Freyberg:

So one question I might have is why not the so-called “pants on fire” rating, the worst of the worst as in liar, liar, pants on fire for this one?

Greg Borowski:

Well, we have a gradation of things, as you suggested, and pants on fire is the very bottom, and that's reserved for something that's ridiculously false, sort of so far removed from reality that it just strikes us as patently absurd.

Frederica Freyberg:

Well, when you get to one of those pants on fire, what's that like for you as an editor, when you do all the research and then you come to that conclusion?

Greg Borowski:

Well, we always take great care in the research and are very transparent about what we found, and who we talked with, and try to lay out our argument and our position very clearly. So if we can establish a pants on fire, I mean, the readers love it. The candidates and politicians hate it. We just view it as another good part of the service in terms of helping people understand what's being said.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, on this particular YouTube clip, we called it selective editing, because what did Tom Barrett go on to say in that radio interview that was then made into that video?

Greg Borowski:

Well, the next lines in the interview were he said, “I would vote for the changes in the health care and the pension. I would vote no on the changes to collective bargaining.” So if you take a narrow snippet of that, you're going to get a very different reading on what was actually said and meant.

Frederica Freyberg:

And so as he was referring to in that part of the interview, in that clip, he wanted to break Act 10 into two. Exactly what did he want to do, did you find, and did the unions also support that?

Greg Borowski:

Right. Yeah. If you go back in time a little bit, and that's always important to remember the context of when these things were said, the unions had come out and said they would accept the extra payments for healthcare and pensions, but were adamantly opposed to collective bargaining, those changes. That’s pretty much what Mayor Barrett’s position was. He was saying, 'Look, these things don't have to be tethered together. If you broke them apart, move forward on what everyone agrees on, reject what’s so controversial, that you would resolve the issue and the stalemate that had the democrats hiding out in Illinois to avoid a vote.'

Frederica Freyberg:

Do you expect this political season will keep on giving when it comes to putting these claims through the truth-o-meter?

Greg Borowski:

Yeah. We've been doing this, in September it will be two years, and what we've found is certainly when the stakes are at their very highest, such as right before an election, or last year in the big recall debate, people and candidates were more prone to make statements that are over the line, or outrageous, or really push it to advance their cause, so I would certainly expect that to continue for the next several weeks.

Frederica Freyberg:

Are you allowed to give us any kind of sneak peek as to what you might be working on at this moment?

Greg Borowski:

Yeah. We have one coming on Sunday that relates to a claim that the governor made at a couple different places that his sons had been targeted on Facebook by out-of-state protestors, sort of his measure of how aggressive and intense the opposition to him is. So we put that to the test and that will be out on Sunday.

Frederica Freyberg:

What has been the readers' reaction to this series, this Politifact?

Greg Borowski:

We've had just tremendous reaction, especially for those readers who are really trying to get behind the truth and accuracy of what they're hearing. It's so hard today when you think of all the ads you see watching TV, all the statements and flyers and literature, chain emails, to really sort out what's accurate and what isn't. What we try and do is put it all in very clear context to use a very systemic and consistent rating scale so that similar problems and statements are rated similarly and readers, you know, turn to that and hopefully help become more informed before they vote.

Frederica Freyberg:

I have to say that as a reporter I've also used it, and I find it very useful and helpful when interviewing some of the people that make these claims. So thank you very much. And we're thrilled to be able to talk with you about this.

Greg Borowski:

Great. Glad to do it.

Here and Now
 

Politifact: Anti-Barrett ad
Monday, January 1, 1900

Watch video

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Greg Borowski joins Here and Now from Milwaukee to check the facts behind an advertisement slamming Milwaukee Mayor and gubernatorial recall candidate Tom Barrett. Powerful statewide union AFSCME, who has endorsed Barrett challenger Kathleen Falk, directed its followers to watch the ad earlier this week.


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