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Reality Check: How Bad Were Those Campaign TV Ads?

Published On: Nov 13 2006 06:58:29 AM CST   Updated On: Nov 13 2006 07:29:25 AM CST

No doubt, you're glad watching TV is back to normal now that political election commercials are off the air.

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But, "Reality Check" examined the 2006 ads one last time and found the ads generally leave out important facts and stretch the truth regularly.

In total, WISC-TV analyzed 16 commercials, including 65 claims. "Reality Check" examined Gov. Jim Doyle's ads, challenger Mark Green's ads, commercials from the attorney general candidates and ads about the marriage amendment.

More than half the claims made -- 54 percent -- were rated by WISC-TV as "needs clarification."

Most of the time, it's because the claim is out of context. The ads tend to leave out facts that give a clearer picture. A good example is the Green ad featuring former Gov. and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson.

In the heavily-played ad, Thompson said, "Mark supports stem-cell research; Don't let anyone tell you different."

Notice Thompson said that Green supports stem-cell research. He didn't say embryonic stem cell research -- leaving out that one word makes a big difference in the meaning.

But 18 percent of the claims in the ads that WISC-TV reviewed went further -- they were misleading. An example is a primary election ad from outgoing Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager.

At the end of the Lautenschlager ad, the announcer says, "And (Falk's) taken thousands from special interests like Big Oil brokers for her campaign."

On the screen, Lautenschlager's ad showed what looked like donations from companies to Kathleen Falk's campaign, but in fact, that's illegal in Wisconsin. They were actually from people who worked for those companies and only one has to do with "Big Oil" and another contribution was even returned. Lautenschlager later changed the ad.

So, how much of it was true?

Only about 26 percent of all the claims made in the ads were reviewed were labeled as true.

However, it's worth noting, there is a level of subjectivity in what is labeled "true," "misleading" or "needs clarification." Also, WISC-TV tends to review ads that need to be analyzed so those ads are naturally a bit more factually questionable.

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