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Reality Check: Barrett Ad Calls Walker A Liar, Financial Failure

Published On: Oct 27 2010 10:05:51 AM CDT   Updated On: Oct 30 2010 11:08:43 AM CDT
MADISON, Wis. -

The economy, jobs and fiscal responsibility all factoring into key Wisconsin races, which is why it's an easy attack strategy for political ads, like a recent one from Democratic candidate for governor Tom Barrett.

In the ad, Barrett wants viewers to think his challenger, Republican Scott Walker, is a liar and a financial failure.

"Scott Walker's truth-o-meter has seriously malfunctioned. Walker is now making claims around the state that reporters know are false, but don't let him get away with the big lie," says the ad, referring to a newspaper story displayed in the ad.

WISC-TV found this to be misleading. The story displayed in the ad is an opinion column, not a news article, in the self-proclaimed progressive Capital Times.

The columnist criticizes both Walker and Barrett, but the focus of the column is really on the fact checkers themselves.

The columnist argues reporters should look further into claims by both Walker and Barrett that aren't in their ads.

"New reports indicate Milwaukee County is going broke. Under Scott Walker, Milwaukee County is now in dire financial shape. One civic group is even suggesting bankruptcy be an option for Milwaukee County government," says the ad, citing reports by Milwaukee TV news stations.

WISC-TV found this is misleading and needs clarification. All of the reports reference an original article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about a report by the Greater Milwaukee Committee.

According to the newspaper, the report by prominent Milwaukee business leaders says Milwaukee County finances are headed for trouble if action isn't taken. They suggest doing away with the county executive's office, spinning off parks and transit departments and making other drastic changes.

The group's recommendations also include a plan to lobby for a law that would allow counties to file for bankruptcy, if necessary. But the report doesn't say the county is yet bankrupt, as the ad seems to suggest.

But Walker actually supports the idea of bankruptcy as an option for governments. In fact, he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that bankruptcy might even be the right option for the troubled Milwaukee School District.

Greater Milwaukee Committee's report isn't public and it isn't completed yet. The Greater Milwaukee Committee originally hoped to wait until after the election so the report wouldn't be politicized. A draft was leaked to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter.

Barrett and Walker meet for their third and final debate on Friday. WISC-TV's Eric Franke will host the debate with Wisconsin Public Television's Fredericka Freyburg. The debate begins at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast live on TV-W and Wisconsin Public Television.

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