Politifact California has slammed a new advertisement by gubernatorial candidate John Chiang with its dreaded “false” label. The ad claims that Chiang opponent Antonio Villaraigosa, as Los Angeles Mayor, was solely responsible for the accumulation of 7,000 untested rape kits.
The narrator for the 30 second ad intones that Villaraigosa “was called ‘a failure.’ An ‘embarrassment.’ As mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa drove L.A. to the brink of bankruptcy. Villaraigosa’s recklessness threatened jobs, the economy and left no funding to test 7,000 rape kits, putting public safety at risk.”
The reality is something else.
For starters, rape kit backlogs are commonplace in municipalities all across the country.
Although you wouldn’t know it from the commercial, the backlog in Los Angeles—which predated Villaraigosa’s tenure–was actually eliminated under his watch in 2011.
Politifact noted that the ad was deceptive in blaming the backlog solely on Villaraigosa. It cites a 2008 audit by Los Angeles comptroller Laura Chick that cast a wide net. “How is it possible we are in this situation?” Chick wrote. “The answer is simple and obvious: The City, its elected leadership, as well as the Police Department, has not given this issue the attention, resources and priority it deserves.”
Contrary to what the ad claims, Villaraigosa did allot money to redress the backlog, the fact-checking website says.
“It gives the wrong impression that Villaraigosa ‘left no funding’ whatsoever to pay for DNA testing when his tenure ended. That’s simply not the case.”
“We found plenty of information that criticized Villaraigosa and the city for a slow start to addressing the problem. Chiang’s ad, however, distorts the facts and creates a narrative that’s simply not supported.”
Politifact did not address the rest of the claims in Chiang’s pitch. But an analysis by the Los Angeles Times depicted the advertisement as rife with distortions.
LA Times reporter Phil Willon noted that the first Latino mayor of LA couldn’t be held solely responsible for the City’s budget woes because his tenure, from 2005 to 2013, corresponded with the national recession: “accusing Villaraigosa of nearly driving Los Angeles into bankruptcy during his two terms in office overlooks the fact that the city’s financial woes came during the nation’s worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.”
“City revenues plummeted during the recession, as they did for most cities and states across the nation,” he continued.
So, basically, throughout the ad Chiang, who polled just nine percent in April, served up more whoppers than Burger King.
As frontrunner Gavin Newsom has opened up a double-digit lead on all candidates, the “race to place” has taken on new importance. A new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll finds a bunching behind Newsom, who sits at 21%, with Villaraigosa at 11%, Republican John Cox at 10% and John Chiang at 6%. A “circular firing squad” scenario in which Chiang knocks fellow Democrat Villaraigosa out of second and ensures a more typical Democrat vs Republican match in November might not endear Chiang to Democrats for future races.
Meanwhile, big spending on Villaraigosa by billionaires like Michael Bloomberg and Reed Hastings has buoyed his campaign.