Charlie Crist attacks Kendrick Meek, Marco Rubio in U.S. Senate ad; spot faces the TRUTH TEST

6:54 PM, Sep 28, 2010   |    comments
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TRUTH TEST HEADQUARTERS, Florida - Perhaps it's his plunging poll numbers. Perhaps it was only a matter of time.  But one week after telling The Miami Herald he was "going to tell the truth...there will be no personal attacks," U.S. Senate candidate Charlie Crist (I) has launched his first negative ad attacking Marco Rubio (R) and Kendrick Meek (D).

10 News' Truth Test aims to separate fact from fiction, so we broke down the claims Crist makes in the 30-second spot and issue corresponding grades.

WATCH: Charlie Crist's "What Do We Really Know?" ad

PREVIOUS: Truth Test Tackles Rick Scott
PREVIOUS: Truth Test Tackles Kendrick Meek




Claim 1: "Newspapers report the IRS is investigating Rubio for using a Republican Party credit card to pay for personal meals, trips, and a family reunion."
It's true that a number of newspapers have reported that Rubio and the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) are under investigation for illicit campaign expenditures that include meals, trips, and vacations. Last week, he was also accused of buying flooring for his house.  Rubio insists he has reimbursed the RPOF for any personal expenditure, but it doesn't affect Crist's claim of what newspapers reported.

The accuracy of the on-screen graphic is a little more complicated.  The graphic quotes the conservative magazine National Review as reporting, "IRS Investigating Rubio Expenditures." 

Even if we ignore the fact that National Review isn't a newspaper, as the ad implies, the biggest issue may be that that Review didn't write an article about the IRS investigating Rubio.  As you can see here, Review merely published a headline on its website with cited excerpts from the St. Petersburg Times.  When asked for documentation of the claim, the Crist campaign even pointed us to the Times article.

So after the ad debuted last week, the Review wrote a scathing open letter to Crist, accusing him of using "the reputation of National Review to attempt to undermine Rubio's support among conservatives." 

The Crist campaign maintains the Review published the headline, so it's fair game, and it's tough for us to argue. But the claim gets a "B" grade for its questionable citation.
Grade:  B

Claim 2: "(Newspapers report) Kendrick Meek steered government contracts to an indicted developer."
The ad's graphic cites a Miami Herald report that said, "Meek sought millions of federal dollars for a developer who had paid his mother."  However, the citation is from May 1, 2010 when the article actually ran on July 31, 2010.

Making matters worse, the announcer's voice track claims "Meek steered funds to an indicted developer", a claim that's not entirely accurate.  Here's why:

The Herald reported that Meek did, in fact, help obtain a $72,750 federal earmark in 2004 for a project that was supposed to create jobs in Miami-Dade County.  And "in June 2005, he also helped get a $1 million labor grant for Miami Dade College to train 800 technicians and related workers for the biopharmaceutical park."  (Crist himself questioned funding the project in 2007).

Next, the project collapsed like many others during the recession and jobs were never created.  That led to an investigation - and indictment - of the developer, Dennis Stackhouse, accused of stealing more than $1 million from the project.  Newspapers questioned the Meek/Stackhouse relationship.

But Crist makes the mistake of claiming Meek helped steer funds to a developer who had already been indicted. Stackhouse wasn't indicted until years later.  The language in this claim is both misleading and inaccurate.
Grade:  D

Claim 3: "(The developer) then hired Meek's mother."
Crist is right that Stackhouse paid Meek's mother, longtime Congresswoman Carrie Meek, $90,000 in consulting fees.  But the ad's timeline is incorrect.  The developer hired her before the federal money was secured - not after.
Grade:  F

Claim 4: "(The developer) gave (Meek's mother) a Cadillac."
In their same investigation of the Meek's relationship with Stackhouse, The Miami Herald reports that the developer also paid for the lease on a Cadillac Escalade for Carrie Meek. For what it's worth, Meek denied knowing about the relationship at first.
Grade:  A

Claim 5: "Marco Rubio and Kendrick Meek: what we don't need in Washington.  Charlie Crist: an honest, independent leader for a change."
No fact-checking to do here, the claim is not a subjective one.
Grade:  Opinion

Claim 1 - B
Claim 2 - D
Claim 3 - F
Claim 4 - A
Claim 5 - Opinion

This ad doesn't stray too far from the truth when it comes to what newspapers have reported, but politicians choose their words very carefully and the Crist campaign chose some of its words poorly.  Holding politicians to the highest standards of accuracy, The Truth Test rules this ad fails to make the grade.

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