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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 11/27/2007

Pinocchios for Mitt and Rudy

By Michael Dobbs

Mitt vs Rudy

"Murder went up when [Romney] was governor [of Massachusetts]. Robbery went up. Violent crimes went up."

--Rudy Giuliani, quoted in Washington Post, November 26, 2007.

"He ([Giuliani] has got a real problem checking facts."

--Mitt Romney, quoted in the same article.

This is not the first time the two front-runners for the Republican nomination have got into a statistical fist fight. Last month, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney gave very different descriptions of their respective economic records as mayor of New York and governor of Massachusetts. As the primary campaign heats up, they have extended the dispute into the criminal justice field. Giuliani repeated his assault on Romney at various stops on the campaign trail, including interviews with the Washington Post and the Associated Press. A look at the evidence suggests that both candidates are cherry-picking the data to suit their argument.

The Facts

National crime statistics are notoriously unreliable. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, less than half the crimes that take place around the country get reported to the authorities. Each locality and state reports its own data to the FBI--and comparisons are dangerous. Year to year trends for rarer crimes, such as murder, should be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism.

The FBI lumps together various different crimes, including murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, under the heading of "violent crime." FBI records show that the violent crime rate in Massachusetts declined modestly between 2002 and 2006 from 484 incidents to 447 incidents per 100,000 inhabitants. So Giuliani is wrong on that score. (Romney took office at the beginning of 2003 and left at the beginning of 2007.)

In rebutting Giuliani, the Romney campaign conveniently omitted the data for robberies and murders in Massachusetts, which showed a modest increase over the same period. The robbery rate in the state rose from 111 per 100,000 in 2002 to 125 in 2006. The murder rate rose from 2.3 in 2002 to 2.9 in 2006, according to the FBI figures. It is difficult to know how much should be read into the murder figures, however, as the total numbers were quite low: 173 in 2002 compared to 186 in 2006.

The crime trends in Massachusetts reflect what was happening nationally over the last decade, according to Sean Varano, a professor of criminology at Northeastern University in Boston. "The crime figures were largely static during the Romney administration," said Varano. "The fluctuation from the national trend is very small."

To illustrate this point, take a look at these "violent crime" figures for the U.S. and Massachussetts, extracted from FBI data, here and here.

During his four years as governor, Romney was criticized for cutting financial aid to local communities, which resulted in cuts to police departments around the state. But this too was part of a national trend following the September 2001 terrorist attacks, according to Varano, as funds were switched from fighting crime to fighting terrorism.

The Pinocchio Test

According to Jason Miller, a spokesman for the Giuliani campaign, the mayor was referring to murders and robberies when he claimed that "violent crimes" had risen in Massachusetts under Romney. But the FBI has a much broader definition of "violent crimes" than simply robberies and murders, and it is their definition that counts. I am prepared to concede that Giuliani may have been confused, but he needs to do a better job checking his facts before opening his mouth. Two Pinocchios for him.

One Pinocchio for Romney for selective use of statistics.

(About our rating scale.)

By Michael Dobbs  | November 27, 2007; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  1 Pinocchio, 2 Pinocchios, Candidate Record, Candidate Watch, Social Issues  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Grace and Candor Under Pressure
Next: Obama Tells a Fib


sad you could not do an analysis for the dems because it seems they have no record to analize.

Posted by: dwightcollinsduarte | November 27, 2007 7:06 AM | Report abuse

Rudy "may have been confused," you write. Yeah, sure, just like he was when he made those ludicrous claims about prostate cancer survival rates in the U.S. vs. Great Britain.

Posted by: eo mcmars | November 27, 2007 8:03 AM | Report abuse

Excellent fact-checking, nice graph makes for clarity - BUT...two P's for Rudy?! "Bearing false witness" against Mitt is worse than lying about himself. Have we learned nothing of the dangers of dishonest speech? Confused? Remember the slack Bush was cut for ACTING dumb? Forget abortion, airport sex, - the fundamental morality is HONESTY. A POTUS who isn't intellectually honest is the ultimate DANGER to America, indeed the world. Leave the excuses to their PR. Four Pinochios for Rudy. Zero for Mitt, because his statement is true. How can he be accused of selective statistics when he didn't give statistics? Mr. Dobbs genuinely seems confused.

Posted by: jhbyer | November 27, 2007 9:32 AM | Report abuse

I am no fun of Romney, but I am puzzled by why he got a pinocchio here. The line you were supposedly fact checking was the claim that Guiliani has a problem checking facts. The fact that you gave Guiliani two pinochios would seem to confirm that. The fact that some of what Guiliani said could be taken as true if one ignores matters of significant error, does not make what Romney said untrue.

Posted by: Lon | November 27, 2007 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Lon, I think as to Romney the fact-checker was referring to Romney's press release, not the one sentence at the top. In that press release, Romney doesn't mention that Giuliani was right about murder and robbery going up. Of course, neither does the fact-checker, who gave Giuliani two pinocchios when two-thirds of his statement was correct.

I agree that it's hard to understand what the fact-checker is thinking sometimes.

Posted by: Tom T. | November 27, 2007 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps a dumb question, but is there a reason these facts were not checked WITHIN THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE?

Posted by: Joel | November 27, 2007 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Joel - excellent question.

Posted by: jhbyer | November 27, 2007 3:16 PM | Report abuse

I think this is all splitting hairs. Real crime went up as far as what you are saying and watered down numbers show overall crime went down. Robbery and murder were both up so really where is the lie here? Just because shop lifting went down so much a percent they count that as lowering the crime rate. Most people are not going to worry about shop lifting or other petty crimes but are worried about murder and robbery. It just goes back to the old saying figures don't lie, liars figure.

Posted by: rich | November 27, 2007 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Rich -

To correct your ascertion, the "facts" above relate to VIOLENT crime, which is what Rudy-boy was talking about. Violent crime, according to the FBI, is murder, robbery, forced sexual contact (rape), and aggravated assault. Also, your splitting hairs comment could not be more untrue. There is always some fluctuation from year to year in crime numbers. There are MAJOR problems with FBI statistics in mere reporting alone that singlehandedly could account for some minor flucuations. Bottom line, crime before and after Romney, including violent crime, was largely the same - and nearly EQUAL to that of New York.

Posted by: Homer | November 27, 2007 7:57 PM | Report abuse

What is it the electorate doesn't know about Rudy ? I mean , at this late date they should be aware of what a hypocritical liar and terrorist he really is. It's hard to list his shortcomings and outright lawlessness in a short comment. But suffice it to say, he , 1- lied and is still lying about his contribution during 9-11. There are many sites run by firemen and police that will fill everyone in on those lies.-2 His treatment of Milkin, and the 2 traders on the stock market floor. He had FBI Marshalls in flak vests with automatic weapons go on the floor and take away 2 traders in handcuffs. ( Is this really the candidate of Law and Order, or a left over from Hitler's Nazis ) They were both found innocent, but Rudy was happy as he was making a name for himself, and innocensce or guilt meant nothing to him , nor does it now. 3- He railroaded Milkin whose Junk Bonds help establish such businesses as CNN, Barnes and Noble, Stone Container Inc. , Time Warner, Safeway and Mattel. He didn't give his money for political protection in Washington, but gave it to support plans to help poor Black Children... Milkin was ripe for Giuliani. Giuliani had the backing of reporters, J.B. Stewart, Daniel Hertzberg, and Laurie Cohen of the Wall Street Journal. Giuliani leaked info. to his media pimps that a 98 count indictment was coming down on Milkin, even though he knew that Milkin had done no wrong. He tried to coerce Milkin into making a plea bargaining arrangement. Giuliani got Laurie Cohen to report no less than 18 times that Milkin would immedietly face indictment of 160 to 300 counts. Giuliani and cohorts tried to pressure Milkin by threatening to indict his brother Lowell. U.S. attorney Dick Thornburgh joked to Deputies, " A brother for a brother". .Sound familiar ? The remark , I mean. In his book , " Payback " , The conspiracy to destroy Michael Milkin ", University of Chicago law professor , and Dean, Daniel Fischel, proves Milkins innocence. His remark was, " When prosecutors are corrupt, innocence is no protection ". Is this really the law and order America is looking for ?
No sense going in to the hypocracy of his claiming to be Catholic. He's excommunicated, and that's a fact. His 2 adulterous laisons , and his first marriage to his second cousin are there for all to see. His relationship with High School chum Monsignor Placa and his cross dressing would be enough for me not to vote for him. He got thrown out of Gracie Mansion for his last adulterous marriage to Judith Nathan, after his first wife, Regina Peruggi got an injunction . So, Rudi as usual , without any moral convictions true to his lifestyle and ignoring his Catholic upbringing, went to live with Alan Placa ( now defrocked ) and 2 homosexuals. I could go on and on, but how can anyone vote for this man ? Will we be cowed into voting for him to keep the Clintons out of the White House ? I don't think so . If these two are the candidates of choice, I think we will be staying home on Election Day. We have been subjected to voting against rather than for, for too long. It's up to those in charge. Give us something to vote for, or we stay home.

Posted by: bonas50 | November 28, 2007 6:19 AM | Report abuse

Romney has a lot more hair than Giuliani, and if previous presidential races are any guide, that's *the* fact that will determine who the next republican candidate will be.

Posted by: Fact Checker | November 28, 2007 7:28 AM | Report abuse

The difference I see between the 2 men is this..... Rudy sweeps his staff's mistakes under the rug and doesn't hold them accountable and in fact submits his name to the President for a higher office. Bernie Kerik.

Mitt Romney loves his staff but holds his people accountable and demands results and a higher level of behavior.

Example: Larry Craig, Idaho state chairman, asked to resign for unethical behavior. Judge Tuttman asked to resign for very poor Judgement.

The difference is clear, who do you want running the Country, when we need a strong economy.

Mitt Romney

Posted by: Scott from AZ | November 28, 2007 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Since Iraq and the economy are two of the top concerns of voters in the US, I suppose it would be too much to ask for the candidates to discuss their plans for 1) getting US out of Iraq and 2) paying off the war debt.

Posted by: CTurner | November 28, 2007 10:20 PM | Report abuse

Would you please fact-check, and account for the following discrepancy: On Dec. 4 the Post reported that Bush White House official Stephen Hadley stated on the record that Bush had been aware for the past three or four months of the most recent National Intelligence Estimate conclusion that Iran had suspended its nuclear development program in 2003. Today, the Post printed an article that accepted Bush's demonstrably false assertion that he had only learned of the content of this NIE last week. Why the blatant contradiction? Why no effort by the Post to publicly own up to the contradiction and explain itself?

Posted by: Andrew May | December 5, 2007 4:40 PM | Report abuse

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