Ryan Invents New Janesville Narrative, Newsbusters’ Kyle Drennen Fails To Keep Up [Updated Below]

This post was Updated at 2:58pm

Kyle Drennen continued Newsbusters’ defense of the indefensible Paul Ryan today, falsely claiming that NBC’s “Today” falsely claimed the Republican candidate had “played fast and loose with the truth” in his speech to the RNC.

Drennen’s subject was an interview of Ryan conducted on the morning program by Matt Lauer. The host’s first question:

“There are some people who are claiming that you played a little fast and loose with the truth on certain key elements. And I’m not just talking about Democratic analysts, I’m talking about some independent fact checkers. Would you concede that while many of the things you said were effective, some were not completely accurate?”

Ryan replied:

“No, not in the least, actually. What they’re trying to suggest is that I said that Barack Obama was responsible for our plant shutdown in Janesville. That is not what I was saying. Read the speech. What I was saying is the President ought to be held to account for his broken promises. After our plant was shut down, he said that he would lead an effort to retool plants like the Janesville plant to get people back to work. It’s still idle, people are still not working there… So my point was not to lay blame on the plant shutdown, it was, this is yet another example of the President’s broken promises. In 2008, he traveled all around the country making promises that he broke, just like the one in Janesville.”

Lauer said that, in his opinion, “it seemed like you were unmistakably trying to link the President’s promise with the closing of that plant, which you know obviously, closed before he became president.” Ryan was having none of that:

“The promise was that he was going to open the plant. The promise was he was going to lead an effort to retool the plant so that people go back to work and it would be open for another hundred years, he said. So the point is, he filled people with all this hope as he traveled around the country running for president, making grandiose statements and promises, which are just not true… I know they don’t like the fact that we point these facts out that they made a lot of promises that did not materialize. Janesville was just yet one more example of that.”

Some facts: In his RNC speech, Ryan was discussing a campaign visit Obama, as a presidential candidate, made to the Janesville plant in February 2008. Contrary to Ryan’s assertion, that was not “after our plant was shut down.” It was, in fact, before GM had even decided to close the plant. That decision came months later, in June, with the plant-closing following in December. Obama made no “promise” that “he was going to open the plant”; at the time of his visit, the plant was open for business. Obama did, indeed, say that as president, he “would lead an effort to retool” plants like Janesville to produce the more fuel-efficient cars of the future but far from being a “broken promise,” he has, in fact, done so. Paul Ryan knows this – while he trashes Obama for “broken promises” on this issue, his own now-infamous budget eliminates all funding for the largest program aimed at assisting this retooling. And while it’s true, as Ryan said, that he didn’t, in his RNC speech, claim Obama “was responsible for our plant shutdown,” he did, in fact, make that charge two weeks prior to the Republican convention at a campaign stop in Ohio, as I detailed, here, last week. In that earlier piece, I noted that Ryan, in his convention remarks, was essentially walking back his earlier false charges; on “Today,” this morning, he made this explicit.

In short, Ryan was questioned about his dishonesty and, in reply, simply lied some more.

Drennen offers a very different “interpretation.” He quotes portions of this part of the exchange with Lauer and characterizes Ryan’s remarks thusly: “Ryan dismantled Lauer’s baseless claim.”

Speaks volumes, doesn’t it?

Expanding those volumes to an encyclopedia, Drennen asserts that the fact-checkers who had challenged Ryan “actually left out several key facts, and yet, the media continues to run with the dishonest attack on Ryan’s accurate statements.” To support this, he links to an editorial in the Washington Examiner but though this editorial misrepresents the Janesville issue in its own way,[1] it actually refutes the all-new narrative Ryan offered the Today audience. While Ryan’s new tale is that Obama visited the plant after it closed and promised to open it, the editorial correctly notes that both GM’s decision to close the plant and the actual plant closure happened long after Obama’s campaign visit.

Since Drennen is asserting here that Lauer made false attacks on Ryan in the context of Newsbusters’ larger thesis – the false notion that the national corporate press is “liberal” – it’s worth noting that Lauer allowed Ryan to get away with this, to sit before a national television audience of millions and weave a narrative that was fundamentally false in every respect.

Continuing, Drennen recounts:

Lauer again tried to portray Ryan as dishonest in another part of the speech: “Let’s talk about the example using the Simpson-Bowles recommendations… you voted against sending those recommendations to the Senate, basically killing any further action on them. Didn’t you owe it to the people in that room to say that as well?”

Ryan refuted: “But if you read the next paragraph, I said Republicans offered alternatives… The President didn’t do that. The President didn’t offer a budget to fix the problem. The Senate hasn’t passed a budget in three years.”

This is Ryan blatantly misrepresenting his own speech. Here, from it, are his remarks on the debt commission:

“He [Obama] created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.”

As Lauer suggested, the degree to which Ryan, in real time, regarded this report as “urgent” is made rather plain by the fact that he, himself, opposed it and voted against it. These remarks, in context, weren’t a preface to comments about Republican “alternatives,” either; they were a charge in a list of charges.[2] Lauer had, in his question, quoted Ryan’s exact remark from the speech but Drennen, in his article, removed the quote, leaving only ellipses. I’ll leave it to the reader to speculate as to why.


[1] Actually, in the way in which the righty blogosphere has misrepresented it.

[2] As had been Ryan’s previous paragraph, and as was his next: “Republicans stepped up with good-faith reforms and solutions equal to the problems.  How did the president respond?  By doing nothing–nothing except to dodge and demagogue the issue.”


Updated at 2:58pm by KevinEhsani_TPB: Later in the afternoon, following Drennen’s posting, Jack Coleman made what he thought was an amazing revelation… Obama did keep his promise of helping plants, like the one in Janesville, WI, to create fuel efficient cars.

Actually, as luck would have it (when complaining about the “liberal media“), Coleman did this without noticing.

While detailing a conversation between MSNBC/talk radio host Ed Schultz, and one of his listeners, Coleman pointed out that the individual calling was making Paul Ryan’s claim (a misleading one) about Obama promising to keep the plant open. According to the caller, the plant was not closed down until April 2009, pinning the blame on Obama, and therefore a “broken promise” (though, in reality, Obama never made it). To this day, the GM plant remains closed.

As excerpted by Coleman, the caller first reiterated Obama’s actual promise (underline emphasis mine), then the “promise” Ryan claims Obama made (bold emphasis theirs):

CALLER: Oh yeah, I wanted to let you know what it was like for the workers here. In February of 2008, President, well President-elect Obama (not for several months) came to Janesville and he said that if he, if government were here and getting involved that he would help to retool the Janesville plant. And then the announcement was made in June of 2008 that in 2010 we’d probably be closing. We made trucks and large SUVs here. And in October of 2008, fortunately we hoped that President Obama would be leading the way to retool our plant and he said that he would like to retool it and make cars like the Volt and that because, you know, the problem was our wanting of production. And in December of 2008, they idled production of the SUVs but we continued with the trucks. And we still were hopeful that we’d be retooled and part of what was going on in Washington and in April 2009 we were still open with the truck production. And then that was stopped and we were still hopeful in 20- …

SCHULTZ (testily interrupts): But where was President Obama? I mean, did you hear the speech last night from Paul Ryan? What’d you think what he said all that? (Schultz even less coherent when irritated.)

CALLER: Well, it is, I mean, most of us that worked at the plant voted for the president because we thought he was going to retool our plant and he didn’t. He just passed us by and …

SCHULTZ: He wasn’t in a position to do that, Elaine! (This from an apologist who frequently credits Obama with saving the auto industry.)


SCHULTZ: No, he wasn’t.

CALLER: Yes, we were working, our plant was open in April of 2009. There was truck production.

Once again, as jriddle notes, President Obama never promised he would keep the plant open, he said he “would lead an effort to retool” plants (same words used by Elaine), like the one in Janesville, so they can make fuel efficient cars, aka the Chevy Volt. That specific plant Elaine worked in, however, was never actually retooled.* [Editor’s Note: Previously, this update stated that the GM plant in Janesville, WI, had been retooled and eventually began to create fuel efficient cars. This is false. We regret the error.]

So, in reality, President Obama kept his promise to help plants create fuel efficient cars, even though GM failed to do so with Janesville.

The final hilarious underscore to this swing and a miss (times TWO) by the crack-bias sleuths at NewsBusters is that they somehow think the caller “schools” Schultz, even though her facts were wrong on a more grand scale, as were Drennen and Coleman’s. The latter getting their facts wrong is not a surprise, however.

Updated (2) at 8:46pm by The Blacksmith: Cenk Uygur of “The Young Turks” online show analyzes the same portion of the Paul Ryan interview where “Today” host Matt Lauer grilled him on his misleading statements about the GM plant in Janesville, WI. Uygur applauds the media calling Ryan out on his lies, and how this kind of fact checking wouldn’t have been done in past elections (courtesy of YouTube’s TheYoungTurks):


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