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Determination: Huckster Propaganda
Analysis: As the congressman representing the South Bay and Imperial County, Filner dubs himself “California’s Border Congressman.” Now he’s campaigning for mayor and highlighting his federal work for a broader local audience.
When CityBeat asked Filner to critique Mayor Jerry Sanders last week, he pointed to the border (emphasis added):
I would say, in general, the leadership in this city, probably since Pete Wilson, has been very, very weak. I’ll just take one issue that I care about, and that’s a better relationship with Mexico and Tijuana. I’ve gone to the last 10 State of the City addresses; I think I’ve heard Mexico mentioned in one of them.
San Diego’s mayor delivers an annual State of the City speech just as the president delivers a State of the Union address. It’s typically used to highlight achievements and outline the coming year’s agenda.
Filner’s claims are seriously flawed, though. Sanders has given six speeches and mentioned Mexico in four of them. In each case, Sanders talked about the same topic that Filner pushed for in his Q&A with CityBeat: expanding border crossings to improve the flow of commercial traffic.
“Trade with Mexico is the fastest growing component of our regional economy, yet each year we squander $3 billion in productivity while people with legitimate reason to cross the border wait in ever-longer lines,” Sanders said in January 2010, according to a script of the speech.
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“I believe our economy will be helped by the expansion and creation of new ports of entry with Mexico,” Sanders said in January 2008, according to a script. “In partnership with leaders in San Diego and Baja California, I will continue that important work this year to make these projects a reality.”
There’s a reason why Filner may not have heard Sanders mention Mexico in his speeches. Congressional records and news archives show Filner didn’t attend all of the last 10 speeches as he claimed.
In 2007, 2009 and 2010, Filner cast votes in Washington, D.C. about five hours before the speeches began in San Diego. Representatives must be present on the House floor to vote. Filner would’ve had to instantaneously jump on a plane to catch even part of the speech. The flight west takes at least five hours, not including the trip from the Capitol to the airport and waiting in security lines.
This year, Filner certainly wasn’t there (though the mayor didn’t talk about Mexico). Filner appeared live on MSNBC from a studio in Washington, D.C. instead of attending Sanders’ speech. The show aired in San Diego at 5 p.m. and the mayor’s speech started an hour later.
When we asked Filner to clarify his statement, he acknowledged not attending all the speeches. “I think it would be more accurate to say I’ve read the last 10 State of the City addresses,” Filner said.
Filner continued to argue that the mayor doesn’t care about the border economy and pushed for an expansion of border crossings — the same projects Sanders repeatedly mentioned in his speeches. Sanders talked about expanding the San Ysidro border crossing, which is underway, and a new border crossing near East Otay Mesa, which is planned for completion in 2015.
Our definition for Huckster Propaganda says the claim is inaccurate and it’s reasonable to expect the person making the claim knew that and made it anyway to gain an advantage.
Filner’s statement fits the definition. Records show Sanders mentioned Mexico in more than one speech and Filner didn’t attend every one.
It’s also reasonable to expect that Filner would know whether he attended all the speeches. His advantage in making the false claim is also clear. He aimed to bolster his mayoral candidacy by criticizing recent mayors and carving out a topic with voters that he thinks he could address better.
If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning. To see other claims we’ve rated Huckster Propaganda, click here.
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