PolitiFact rates TNGOP Bredesen-bashing press release as ‘half true’

PolitiFact has deemed “half true” a Tennessee Republican Party press release denouncing Democrat Phil Bredesen TV ad that boasts of his record in recruiting economic development while governor, including creation of 200,000 new jobs. It’s a bit of an oddity in that the ad itself is not given a truth rating, as PolitiFact often does on political advertising claims.

The Bredesen Senate campaign ad (previous post HERE) earlier this month was followed by a TNGOP press release under the headline, “Setting the Record Straight.”

“While Phil Bredesen was in the governor’s office, the number of Tennesseans on unemployment nearly doubled,” the GOP posted on its website May 23. “He is backtracking to change his weak record, but Tennesseans won’t be fooled by misleading ads.”

From the PolitiFact article:

When Bredesen became governor in January 2003, the state had about 149,000 unemployed people. When he left in January 2011, it had about 296,000.

As the Republicans said, that’s about double.

Before we get into the caveats, we should note that there’s a flaw in the Republican language. The post talked about “the number of Tennesseans on unemployment.” That’s different from the number of unemployed people, because some might not have been eligible for unemployment benefits in the first place, and some might have seen their benefits run out.

The state labor market reports track the number of new claims for unemployment each month, but not the total number of people getting benefits at a given point in time.

As for the point about unemployment growth, the Republican post leaves out the enormous impact of the Great Recession. That wasn’t something under Bredesen’s control; it was a global economic collapse that struck every state and pretty much every nation worldwide.

In the time Bredesen was in office, the national unemployment rate went from 5.8 percent to 9.1 percent. The rate in Tennessee went from 5.1 percent to 9.5 percent; worse than the national average, but the overall trend was the same.

… The GOP post also overlooks that before the recession, Bredesen oversaw a net increase in jobs. The state had 2.76 million jobs when he took office, and four years later in 2007, it had 2.94 million, a gain of about 180,000 jobs.

Our ruling

The Tennessee Republican Party challenged Bredesen’s track record on jobs, saying that the number of people on unemployment doubled during his time as governor.

Government statistics show that the number of unemployed did rise by that amount. But the statement suffers from two flaws: It ignores the impact of the Great Recession which was beyond the control of Bredesen or any state leader. And it assumes that every unemployed person is getting unemployment benefits, which is not accurate.

The numbers leave out important context. We rate the statement Half True.

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