WaPost fact-checker gives McAuliffe 'four Pinocchios' over claim tying budget deficit to GOP

WaPost fact-checker gives McAuliffe 'four Pinocchios' over claim tying budget deficit to GOP
© Greg Nash

A Washington Post fact-check is giving Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic nominee for Virginia governor, "four Pinocchios" after finding that he has, on at least three separate occasions, pushed a false claim that Republicans in the state are responsible for the budget deficit he inherited when he previously served in the governor's mansion. 

“I inherited the largest budget deficit in the history of the state from the Republicans," McAuliffe tweeted on June 10. 

"Biggest debt became the biggest surplus,” he said again during an interview on a local radio station, before repeating the claim during an appearance on MSNBC: “I inherited the largest deficit from the Republicans.”

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The Post cited those three examples as instances of McAuliffe pushing what it said was a false claim and awarding him four Pinocchios, a metric the outlet uses to rate the veracity of statements made by public officials and other prominent leaders. 

"Let’s divide this in two parts," fact-checker Glenn Kessler wrote. "First, did McAuliffe inherit a budget deficit left behind by Republicans? The short answer is no. Virginia requires a balanced budget, so that’s what former governor Bob McDonnell (R) left behind. Note, however, that McAuliffe has been claiming he ‘inherited’ a deficit. Instead, he inherited a balanced budget — and then faced a deteriorating financial picture that got worse over time." 

PolitiFact has rated McAuliffe's repeated claims about Republicans and the Virginia state budget as false three times since 2015, the Post noted. 

That year, McAuliffe called the state's budget deficit left behind by Republicans before he took office in 2014 the biggest ever.

“When you talk to the public all day, sometimes you have a slip of the tongue,” a spokesman said at the time. 

"Well, McAuliffe’s tongue has been slipping a lot lately," Kessler quipped. "He has ventured into recidivism." 

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In awarding McAuliffe’s claim four Pinocchios, the Post wrote he "could have touted how he handled a budget gap he faced early in his tenure without pinning the blame on Republicans or making grandiose claims about its size." 

"Instead, he chose to double down on claims already fact-checked as false. McAuliffe even repeats a false claim that a previous McAuliffe spokesman had acknowledged was wrong but explained that McAuliffe simply misspoke," the fact-check read. "So McAuliffe has little excuse to repeat it over and over again." 

A new poll on the Virginia governor's race released last week showed McAuliffe leading Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin by 2 points, 48 percent to 46 percent. That fell within the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.