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Politifact retracts support of McCaskill statement on planes

Politifact, the self-described arbiter of truth in news and political statements found itself in hot water Tuesday. The organization rated a Republican Senate Leadership Fund ad concerning Missouri Claire McCaskill’s use of planes as “false” but then something odd happened.   They quickly retracted the “false” rating of the Republican ad after receiving “new evidence.”

Here’s what happened:

THE CLAIM: The Senate Leadership Fund says McCaskill “even said this about private planes, ‘that normal people can afford it.’” The footage in the ad leaves out the lead-in comment that prompted McCaskill’s remark. The full footage makes it clear that McCaskill is echoing an audience member’s observation about how U.S. commercial aviation system is available to a “normal person” — not saying that ordinary Americans can afford private planes. We rate the statement False. – PolitiFact ruling


PolitiFact declared, in a fact-check published Tuesday evening, that an ad from Senate Leadership Fund (SLF) about Claire McCaskill is “false.” The ad claims McCaskill said “normal people” can afford planes like her husband’s plane, which is a private plane and has been a subject of controversy in McCaskill’s 2018 reelection campaign.

McCaskill made the comment at a town hall in August 2017.

First, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch pointed out last year that, indeed, McCaskill was having an exchange with a town hall attendee who was discussing private flyers.

According to context not included in the new ad but provided in additional video footage from the NRSC, McCaskill was responding to a comment by an audience member who was lauding the way the U.S. air traffic system handles private flyers — so that, as he put it, “a normal person can afford it.” McCaskill then repeated the phrase in her response.

She appears to have been attempting to make a joke about her previous controversy, something the ad doesn’t make clear. But she was also generally agreeing with the premise that a “normal person” can afford to fly a private plane — a premise that might make many normal people balk.

Here’s part of the exchange:

TOWN HALL ATTENDEE: “When you go to any other country, you know, the cost of flying and aviation – say, like, if you just had a friend that went home to Greece and was traveling, flying around over there. And it costs, like, $500 if you go one little city to the next. You know, and you have to go through all kinds of – you have to have credit cards on file for them to charge your account when you get [inaudible] number. And that’s one thing that the United States has that nobody else has, is a [inaudible] fly around, and be affordable, where a normal person can afford it, you know?”

CLAIRE MCCASKILL: “Will you remind that when they come after me about my husband’s plane? That normal people can afford it.” [Laughs] “Um, yeah, but I understand the fear. And I understand the uncertainty. But I remain committed to trying to look at any solution we can find to get our stuff updated. But not at the expense of general aviation.”

Observers say McCaskill’s quip is that her line, “normal people can afford it,” is in reference to her husband’s plane, and not the subject of general aviation. McCaskill may have been joking, as PolitiFact mused, but the reference to affordability is clearly about her husband’s plane.