Truth Test: Mike Weinholtz ad on Gov. Herbert and public lands

Posted at 6:04 PM, Nov 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-03 20:04:06-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- There are a lot of verifiable facts in Democratic Candidate for Governor Mike Weinholtz new ad:

Fact 1: "96 percent of all Utahns want to protect these places."

That's taken directly from the "State of the Rockies" poll conducted every year by Colorado College.

Fact 2: "Under [Herbert's] watch, we've already leased millions of acres of public land."

The number they cite comes from the amount of Bureau of Land Management land under lease, rather than state lands. Still, the Governor is a strong supporter of traditional energy development.

Fact 3: "He's taken over one million in contributions from oil, gas and real estate companies."

The governor is a prolific fundraiser, regularly receiving five-figure donations from corporations and individuals. Real Estate and Oil and Gas are two key industries in his disclosures. There is no law regulating the size of campaign donations in state races.

Like so many political ads, the problem comes in the characterization of the facts:

Take this section of the commercial:

"Gary Herbert 9/16/16: 'I never suggested selling off the public lands.'

But that's a lie. He said it himself.

"Gary Herbert 5/18/11: 'I would argue that we could privatize this public land and have it developed commercially.'"

If you look at the context of the second quote, it's in a lengthy answer to a reporter's question. The governor was commenting on a Florida politician's idea to reduce the Federal debt by selling off public lands.

Also, the ad shows video of Delicate Arch, a beautiful stretch of river, and what looks like a campsite in Canyonlands.

Utah is ground zero in a fight to take land from federal to state and local control, and the Governor has voiced his support for the transfer and for developing natural resources. It's an important issue.

But we call this section fudging because it suggests Herbert would sell Delicate Arch, and then it calls him a liar when he makes a broad statement about fighting back.