Fact Squad | Misleading GOP ad smears Gary Peters’ record on coronavirus

Gary Peters

LANSING — A new TV attack ad from a Republican group accuses Michigan Democratic Sen. Gary Peters of blocking emergency aid for small businesses in the United States while praising China’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

But the commercial is misleading in several ways, slamming Peters for a vote that effectively extended negotiations on the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, & Economic Security Act that was signed into law days later. And it mischaracterizes his position on China to suggest he supports the communist regime. 

The ad is paid for by One Nation, a nonprofit that does not disclose donors but plans to spend $4.5 million in the Senate race that pits Peters against Republican businessman John James. One Nation reportedly has ties to the Senate Leadership Fund established by allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. 

The Claims

“As coronavirus spread, Senator Gary Peters praised China's response, but when American small businesses needed help, Senator Peters turned his back,” a narrator says as the ad cuts to a split screen with the Bloomfield Hills Democrat and Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

“Peters stood with far-left senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, blocking emergency relief for American businesses. He put party politics before Michigan jobs.”

The ad ends by urging Peters to support a Senate bill that proposes to ensure businesses won’t face tax liability for forgivable federal loans provided through the CARES Act.

The Facts

Senate Democrats, including Peters, did twice block floor votes on a massive coronavirus relief package in the Republican-led Senate on March 22 and 23. But that’s because they were trying to secure extra emergency funding for hospitals, local governments and oversight of business bailouts. It wasn’t just “far-left senators” seeking changes to the bills.

The negotiations delayed approval for a few days but soon yielded bipartisan compromise that included $377 billion in small business relief spending, about $27 billion more than previously proposed. The Senate approved the revised legislation on March 26, and President Donald Trump signed the CARES Act into law the following day.

Peters later supported a second wave of small business relief in April, voting for a $484 billion deal that included additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, which has provided forgivable loans to more than 121,000 Michigan companies. 

As for China, it’s true Peters suggested the United States could learn some lessons from the country where the virus originated, particularly in regards to keeping businesses open amid the pandemic. But he also voiced concerns about transparency from the Chinese government. 

In a Feb. 12 interview on Fox News, Peters said China “has instituted some very aggressive actions [to contain the virus] and they need to continue to do that.” He said it was “frustrating” that China was not allowing U.S. health officials to assess the outbreak on the ground “to get a better sense of what we’re dealing with so we can contain it more effectively.”

In a March 20 interview on MSNBC, Peters noted that outside of Hubei province, Chinese factories had continued to operate, using partitions to separate their employees to keep the economy running in parts of the country less impacted by the virus. "We've gotta be doing that same kind of thing here — thinking strategically,” Peters said. “Dealing with the disease but also maintaining our economy so when we do get through it, it can come back up fairly quickly.”

The Conclusion

Commercials like these are why it seems so many people hate political ads.

The spot twists a few facts — Peters’ votes are a matter of record, as are his comments about China — to reach the false conclusion that he “turned his back on small businesses.”

In fact, Peters voted for legislation that provided billions of dollars more for small businesses, context that the misleading ad wholly ignores.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Thu, 08/20/2020 - 9:42am

Peters has always followed the Democrat party line on every issue that I'm aware of. His record shows that power and party come first over everything else.

Thu, 08/20/2020 - 8:23pm

Thank God! Otherwise we'd do everything Trump wants. That's dangerous these days.

Thu, 08/20/2020 - 9:49am

So is Bridge working to keep Peters in office? If so, would these supposed FACT CHECK articles need be reported as in kind donations to his campaign? Where is the Bridges story on his working hard to get some help to the working people of Michigan through tax cuts that would directly put money in their pocket. Where is the story of him holding Whitmer accountable to asking the Federal Government for the additional funds available. There are none because he is NOT doing any of these things. Only Representative Mitchell has held Whitmers feet to the fire and got her to ask for the money for her own state....to help the people that voted for her. If we re-elect these sad examples of leaders like Peters and Whitmer we get the misery they cause and we deserve. These happy ads about Michigan water do nothing to fill the empty bellies of the hard working men and women that just want to go back to work.

GOP lies
Thu, 08/20/2020 - 11:14am

I understand Trump's lying desperation. He's trying to avoid jail time.

I can't understand why John James is so desperate to lie.

Thu, 08/20/2020 - 12:35pm

We all know not to believe everything in campaign adds so why is Bridge even writing this article? I didn’t think Bridge was supposed to take sides. ??

Thu, 08/20/2020 - 8:30pm

"We all know not to believe everything in campaign adds so why is Bridge even writing this article?"

Um, your point of view is the same bill of goods Trump sold us in 2016 when his minions and sycophants told us "don't believe what he says." Well fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

Enough glorification of deceit! With the bar set that low, we have no where to go, but down. Trump thinks he is above the law and We the People need to curb his abuses of power, not elect more Trump sycophants.

Fri, 08/21/2020 - 5:10am

Chris, so you don't think the media or the public should fact-check or demand the truth from politicians who tax us?

Thu, 08/27/2020 - 7:37am

That’s not what I really meant. I should have written a better statement instead of being snarky. I never believe political adds. They lie and twist the truth when they attack each other - from both sides. I am not saying this journalist is wrong. Just felt like this was more of a campaign add and I thought Bridge promised to stay away from that.

Reality Check
Fri, 08/21/2020 - 1:35pm

Are you kidding?
Every single news outlet suffers from extreme bias. 90% show extreme left bias, and 10% show extreme right bias.
Guess which Bridge is.

Michelle Carlson
Fri, 08/21/2020 - 8:38am

This comment is for Bridgemi only. It seems to me that the author of this article is very much sided on the Left of politics. Which is fine but this is a magazine that is supposed to stay away from that. Other articles he has written confirm that also.

Beverly Keenan
Fri, 08/21/2020 - 10:18am

I was taught : If your facts are strong, pound on the facts. If your facts are weak, pound on the table. It's obvious there is a new doctrine here: If your facts are nonexistent, pour on the money.

Elsie Anne
Sun, 08/23/2020 - 5:22pm

Thanks very much for the fact check. And, contrary to some of the other comments here, Bridge fact-checks both parties equally. Political ads are notoriously misleading, and this ad is a prime example. It's nice to see those distortions exposed.

Sat, 08/29/2020 - 11:18am

It looks as though some reading the fact checks here didn't read far enough to see that an incorrect ad re James is also noted - the overall effect is that the out-of-context ad making is more prevalent on the James' side than on the Peters' side. In my opinion, political ads are all suspect--and appeal to emotions and not logic. Look to newspapers and magazines like Bridge and Detroit Metro Times (which has a factually loaded article on James' business dealings) for thorough, balanced coverage.

Sat, 08/29/2020 - 8:09pm

You are correct. I did not read all of it and I do apologize for thinking it was more of a campaign add. I did feel disappointed as I felt Bridge was not holding to their promise but I was wrong. Thank you Arlene and I am sorry Bridge.