Republican frontrunner Donald Trump announced a major victory in a series of tweets on Sunday evening, claiming that because of his persistent criticism on the campaign trail, Ford Motor Co. had halted plans to construct a $2.5 billion factory in Mexico and would instead set up shop in Ohio. Trump took credit for the decision and bragged that his rivals would not have been able to do the same.
But there’s just one problem with Trump’s self-congratulatory victory lap – it’s based on inaccurate information, likely sourced to an article posted on a Web site of a print shop that sells business cards, door hangers and postcards.
Ford is still building a massive facility in Mexico, a company spokeswoman confirmed on Sunday evening. Nothing has changed about those plans.
So what is Trump talking about? His campaign manager and spokeswoman have yet to respond to a request for comment, but here’s the years-long series of events that likely contributed to these tweets:
December 2011: Following fears that a local assembly plant would close, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, R, and Ford officials announced they had reached a deal to keep the plant running and jobs in the state. Ford would move some of its truck-assembly operations from Mexico to Ohio, saving at least 1,400 of the plant’s 1,900 jobs. In exchange, Ford would receive a tax credit of $1 million per year for 15 years through the Refundable Ohio Job Retention Tax Credit program, the Toledo Blade reported.
March 2014: Ford started to shift a small part of its operations from Mexico to Ohio. In a statement, the company says it “is investing $168 million to retool the Cleveland-area plant for the new medium-duty trucks.”
April 2015: Ford announced it will spend $2.5 billion on two new plants in Mexico that will focus on building fuel-efficient engines and transmissions. Trump frequently brings up these plans on the campaign trail and promises that, if elected president, he would bully Ford into instead building that factory within the United States.
August 2015: Remember those pick-up trucks that are being produced in Ohio instead of Mexico? Well, the first batch rolled off the assembly line on Aug. 12 – and Ford seized the public relations opportunity. NBC News went with this headline: “Ford Throws UAW (and Trump) a Bone, Shifts Work from Mexico to Ohio.”
Last week: Trump rarely makes it through a rally speech without bringing up Ford and its Mexican factory. During a rally in eastern Iowa on Wednesday evening, Trump juiced up his usual comments and warned the crowd: “If it doesn’t happen to be me that wins, you know what’s going to happen? They’re going to build a plant and illegals are going drive those cars right over the border. . . . And they’ll probably end up stealing the cars.”
Sunday morning: Trump supporters began to circulate an article published over the weekend on the Web site of Printly, which appears to sell business cards, door hangers, postcards and other political campaign materials. The article – headlined “Trump successfully pressures Ford to move Mexican plant to Ohio” – states that Ford would move its $2 billion plant to “struggling Youngstown, Ohio.” Ford does not have any facilities in Youngstown, a spokeswoman said Sunday.
The article is written by Dmitri Volova, whose biography says he was born in the USSR Russian SFR, moved to the U.S. and “is a proud contributor to Printly with a voice from the former communist empires.” The article cites a CNN Money report, but provides no link. A search of CNN Money provided no such report, although there was an article back in August headlined, “Ford shifts truck production from Mexico to Ohio.”
Sunday afternoon: Trump retweeted a fan’s link to the article and added this note: “FORD LISTENED TO ME, GREAT!” He then tweeted: “Word is that Ford Motor, because of my constant badgering at packed events, is going to cancel their deal to go to Mexico and stay in U.S.” And he added: “Do you think I will get credit for keeping Ford in U.S. Who cares, my supporters know the truth. Think what can be done as president!”
Sunday evening: Christin Tinsworth Baker, a spokeswoman for Ford, confirmed in an e-mail to The Washington Post that, no, the company had not abandoned plans to build facilities in Mexico. The recent shift of production of medium-duty trucks from Mexico to Ohio had been in the works for years, she said. And Baker noted that although Ford is growing in Mexico, the company has invested $6.2 billion in U.S. plants since 2011 and hired nearly 25,000 employees in the U.S.
Sunday night: Trump was quickly challenged on the accuracy of his Ford-is-abandoning-Mexico tweets, but he didn’t delete, correct or clarify anything he had written. Instead, he retweeted two more messages on the topic, including one that asked: “Do you think Hillary, Ben or Jeb could do this?”
And as the faulty news story continued to circulate, Ohio Gov. Kasich – another Republican running for president – tried to take a victory lap of his own, tweeting that his state deserved credit. “Our country needs real leadership and not empty, false rhetoric,” he tweeted on Sunday night.