Republican vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, (R-Wis.), waves… (Sara D. Davis / Associated…)
CLEVELAND — Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan declined on Tuesday to back away from statements in his party convention speech that nonpartisan fact checkers have branded as false or misleading.
In a round of television interviews, the Wisconsin congressman was challenged by network anchors to defend statements on Medicare, the federal deficit and the 2008 closing of a GM plant in his hometown, Janesville.
Asked by NBC “Today” show anchor Matt Lauer whether he would concede that some of his statements “were not completely accurate,” Ryan responded: “No. Not in the least, actually.”
Factcheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center, found that Ryan’s nomination acceptance speech last week in Tampa, Fla., “contained several false claims and misleading statements.” Politifact, a project of the Tampa Bay Times and other news organizations, faulted the speech for falsehoods as well.
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In the speech, Ryan said many people liked the sound of President Obama’s talk about change during the 2008 campaign — “especially in Janesville, where we were about to lose a major factory. A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant. Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said, 'I believe that if our government is there to support you, this plant will be here for another hundred years.' That's what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn't last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day.”
But GM had closed the Janesville plant a month before Obama took office as president. Ten months before the shutdown, Obama had visited the plant and told workers there, “I believe that if our government is there to support you, and give you the assistance you need to retool and make this transition, that this plant will be here for another hundred years.”
“After our plant was shut down,” Ryan told Lauer on Tuesday, “[Obama] 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. Lots of people I grew up with who lost their jobs there still don’t have those jobs there. So my point was not to lay blame on a plant shutdown. It was, this is yet another example of the president’s broken promises.”
Lauer also questioned Ryan on his remarks at the convention on Obama’s creation of “a new bipartisan debt commission.”
“They came back with an urgent report,” Ryan said in his speech. “He thanked them, sent them on their way and then did exactly nothing. 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.”
Lauer asked Ryan whether he owed it to the public to mention that as a member of the panel — the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform — Ryan had voted against sending its deficit reduction plan to Congress for a vote, in effect blocking action on its recommendations.
“But if you read the next paragraph, I said Republicans offered alternatives,” Ryan told Lauer.
Ryan said the Republican-controlled House addressed some of the plan’s shortcomings and adopted its own version. “That’s my point,” he said. “The president didn’t do that.”
But Obama did release a plan to cut the deficit by $3.6 trillion over 10 years through spending cuts and tax hikes.
On ABC’s “Good Morning America,” anchor George Stephanopoulos asked Ryan to respond to charges by Democrats that it was dishonest for him to criticize Obama for $716 billion in Medicare cuts that Ryan included in his own federal budget proposal.
Ryan said his budget, which the House passed, included the Medicare cuts because it was “based upon current law,” which included assumed the reductions as part of Obama’s healthcare overhaul. He told Stephanopoulos that he voted to undo those cuts when he backed repeal of the healthcare law.
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“The point is, and this has been pretty well verified and established, if you’re taking $716 billion from Medicare to finance Obamacare, that really is a raid of Medicare for Obamacare,” Ryan told ABC. “We think that’s wrong. Our plan to save Medicare does not affect or change the benefits for anybody who is in or near retirement.”
The $716 billion in Obama's Medicare cuts also do not affect anyone’s benefits; they come mainly from reductions in government reimbursement rates for hospitals and other care providers.
Obama’s reelection campaign released a statement hammering Ryan for his remarks on the GM plant in Janesville.
“On all three network morning shows today, Congressman Ryan repeated the falsehood he told about the Janesville GM plant in his convention speech,” the statement said. “The truth is that the GM plant closed before President Obama took office and, as the Detroit News reported, he ‘made no such promise’ to keep it open.”
After his morning show interviews from North Carolina, where he campaigned on Labor Day, Ryan planned to head to Ohio for an afternoon rally near Cleveland, then to Iowa for another in Cedar Rapids.
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