TRUTH TEST: TV Ad Attacking Mills gets 'F'

November 03, 2016 02:12 PM

Two new ads attacking Republican Stewart Mills in the 8th District congressional race focus on a contentious issue in that district--foreign trade. The ad starts out by criticizing Mills because he's wealthy.

"Stewart Mills didn't work a real job. He inherited his fortune," the ad from the Democrats "House Majority PAC" says of Mills. It is true to say he's wealthy, but false to say he didn't work a "real job." Mills served as vice president of the Mills Fleet Farm chain of stores until his family sold the business last year.


RELATED: See all of Tom Hauser's Truth Tests

It's the next portion of the ad where it runs into serious fact-checking problems. "So we shouldn't be surprised Stewart Mills said this behind closed doors," the ad says, before using a secretly-record quote of Mills talking to someone at a Republican dinner event on September 10th.  "I'm for free trade," you hear Mills say. "We need a free trade agreement. We need to be part of the Asian Pacific alliance."

This is a contentious issue in the northern part of the 8th District because "free trade" agreements are opposed by many mining unions on the Iron Range. They contend foreign exporters of steel, including China, unfairly subsidize their mining industries and sell their products cheaper here in the United States than American producers can match.

Mills doesn't deny it's his voice on the recording. He also doesn't deny he wants to help negotiate "fair" trade agreements. He does say he's opposed to the Trans Pacific Partnership the U.S. has been negotiating. Mills wrote an op-ed in the Grand Rapids Herald Review. "After reviewing this needlessly complex deal, studying expert analysis, and talking with 8th District voters on the topic, there is no way I can support TPP," Mills wrote in June.

In a debate with Democrat incumbent Rick Nolan last week on KSTP-TV, Mills claimed the quote in the TV ads was edited and taken out of context. He demanded that Nolan give permission to the House Majority PAC and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which is running a similar ad, to release the full audio recording. Nolan said he has no control over those groups.

On Thursday, 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS contacted representatives at the House Majority PAC and the DCCC to request the full audio recording of Mills' comments. Both groups said they have only the six seconds of audio and don't know who secretly recorded it.

A spokeswoman for the DCCC said it was posted by the DFL Party on YouTube. We found the audio on YouTube, but it was posted anonymously and simply labeled, "MN08RawFootage." However, it only includes the same few seconds of audio in the ads. There is no context for the comments or a longer recording that would allow us to verify it wasn't edited unfairly.

The ad also makes a couple truthful statements about Nolan being endorsed by the United Steelworkers and his support for a bill that would force the federal government to use American-only steel in some projects.

READ: Nolan "Buy American" Steel Act

READ: Nolan endorsed by United Steelworkers

However, the Mills "quote" about free trade is impossible to verify without the producers of the ads providing the entire audio recording or at least a substantial portion of it. For that reason, this ad gets an "F" on the "Truth Test."

READ: Stewart Mills Op-Ed against the "Trans Pacific Partnership"


Tom Hauser

Copyright 2016 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company


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