FACT CHECK: Mitt the Ripper?

Stephen Colbert's 'Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow' PAC bring comedy into presidential nominee race

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Screen shot of 'Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow' attack ad against Mitt Romney

Comedy Central

OK, we get the joke. But there’s a problem with the satirical TV spot that the Stephen Colbert “super PAC” is running against Mitt Romney in South Carolina. Romney didn’t bump off the companies that the ad jokingly claims he did.

For those who haven’t been watching the Comedy Central star’s show lately, Colbert (a South Carolina native) says he’s decided to run for president — in South Carolina only. The “super PAC” he formed previously has now been turned over to fellow Comedy Central comedian Jon Stewart, and there’s absolutely, positively NO coordination going on between the two (wink, nudge) because that would be illegal. Now Stewart has sent word that the first (and “definitely NOT coordinated with Stephen”) TV spot will run in “a major ad buy that will blanket South Carolina from Charleston all the way to North Charleston.”

The 60-second spot pokes fun at Romney’s statement that “corporations are people,” saying that makes “Mitt the Ripper” a “serial killer” because of his record as head of Bain Capital. There’s even a brief shot of a human body being dragged away as the announcer says Romney bought companies and “got rid of what he couldn’t use.”

But Romney wasn’t the one who killed off the companies shown in the satirical ad.

It shows Romney running logos of KB Toys and DDi Corp through a big wood chipper, for example. But as we pointed out in our criticism of a video by a pro-Newt Gingrich super PAC, Romney had left Bain Capital before the demise of either of those companies. In fact, Bain purchased KB Toys afterRomney left the company.

The ad also shows Ampad’s logo being tossed into the shredder, but as we also pointed out that office supply company thrived for years under Bain’s control before it ran into trouble. It filed for bankruptcy in 2000, also after Romney departed. So while Romney may or may not have made decisions that hurt the company, he wasn’t the one who declared it bankrupt.

That’s also true of Dade Behring, a medical supply firm whose logo the ad shows being fed into the shredder. Dade didn’t declare bankruptcy until August of 2002, more than three years after Romney left Bain. To be sure, according to the New York Times, the company laid off workers while Romney was in charge. And he profited from it. But he didn’t make the decision to file for bankruptcy.

Also featured is a headline from the Kansas City Star — “Bain Capital Tied to Bankruptcy.” That news story refers to GST Industries Inc., a steel manufacturer that declared bankruptcy in February 2001 — two years after Romney left.

There’s no doubt Romney grew wealthy at Bain, and profited from the deals featured in the ad even after he no longer headed the company. Perhaps the companies could have avoided bankruptcy if Bain had invested more, or taken less in profit, while Romney was making the decisions. His critics could argue — and some do — that Romney dealt damaging blows to some or all these firms while he was in charge.

But “Mitt the Ripper” has an alibi on the charge of corporate murder. When those deaths occurred, the record shows Romney had left the scene.

– Brooks Jackson

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