In Trump vs. Ford, truth is the loser
Never one to let facts stand in the way of a good victory lap, Donald Trump wants credit for a decision Ford Motor Co. made four years ago.
Trump on Sunday claimed Ford had canceled plans to invest $2.5 billion building plants in Mexico and instead would do the work in Ohio.
“FORD LISTENED TO ME, GREAT!” he tweeted to his 4.67 million followers.
Except that Ford did not actually listen to Trump at all. Not even a little, tiny bit.
Ford did exactly what it said it was going to do way back in 2011 -- the same year Meat Loaf almost won “Celebrity Apprentice.”
Trump is confusing two separate issues that have nothing to do with each other, except that both involve Mexico and the timing coincided with Trump’s emergence as the leading Republican candidate for president.
As part of the UAW’s 2011 contract with Ford, the automaker agreed to move production of medium-duty pickups from Escobedo, Mexico, to an Ohio plant that previously built E-series vans. Highlights of the deal distributed by the UAW at the time cite a $128 million investment in the plant to prepare for “insourcing” the work from Mexico.
“This plant will in-source work from Mexico; how about that?” Jim Tetreault, Ford’s then-vice president of North American manufacturing, said during a news conference at the Ohio Assembly Plant in December 2011.
Then, in April 2015, Ford said it would build two new plants in Mexico. It said the plants will make engines and transmissions for vehicles in North America, South America and Asia.
That news upset many in the UAW, and Trump has railed against it numerous times, saying he would implement a (probably illegal) 35 percent tax on parts or vehicles made at the new Mexico plants.
In August, Ford announced that the Ohio plant had started making the previously Mexico-made F-650 and F-750, just as it had announced in 2011. A few stories at the time noted that it was happening amid Trump’s criticism of Ford’s investment in Mexico.
On Sunday, supporters began sending Trump links to a poorly written, inaccurate story -- posted on the website of a political print shop -- claiming Trump had forced Ford to undo its Mexico plans. Trump seized on the opportunity to take credit, either without understanding the truth or deliberately twisting it.
“Do you think I will get credit for keeping Ford in U.S.,” Trump tweeted. “Who cares, my supporters know the truth. Think what can be done as president!”
The Washington Post swiftly debunked the idea that Ford had changed course in Mexico, and the automaker followed that up today, probably after everyone in the PR department finally managed to stop laughing, with a straightforward statement:
“Ford has not spoken with Mr. Trump, nor have we made any changes to our plans. We decided to move the F-650 and F-750 medium-duty trucks to Ohio Assembly in 2011, long before any candidates announced their intention to run for U.S. president. We are proud that Ford has invested $10.2 billion in our U.S. plants since 2011 and hired nearly 25,000 U.S. employees. Overall, more than 80 percent of our North American investment annually is in the U.S., and 97 percent of our North American engineering is conducted in the U.S.”
One of Trump’s challengers for the Republican nomination, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who would know all about Ford’s 2011 agreement to move jobs to his state from Mexico, responded: “Nope.”
Many Trump supporters -- the people who “know the truth,” as Trump put it -- dismissed the fact-checking as “liberal lies” and an effort to unfairly discredit the candidate. Unfortunately for their arguments, the truth isn’t on Trump’s side in this case.
Unfortunately for everyone else, facts have virtually nothing to do with a presidential campaign.