Truth Test: A C Wharton’s mayoral campaign ad

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. --  WREG-TV is holding politicians accountable with the News Channel 3 truth test.

We start with the Memphis mayoral race that is just eight weeks away.

First up is incumbent Mayor A C Wharton.

The ad starts with a single mom and her two kids, a real Memphis family we're told, not actors.

The commercial's first claim goes like this, "Because of A C, hundreds of new families are in homes that they own."

That is true as Wharton led the way on the city's lawsuit against Wells Fargo over predatory lending practices resulting in a huge settlement.

After that claim, the ad puts up a bunch of fast-paced bragging points such as Wharton securing $5 million from the Bloomberg Foundation to reduce gun violence.

That is also true, although there's no evidence provided about the money's impact on gun violence.

The next claim is major violent crime is down by more than 16 percent.

The campaign cites a Memphis-Shelby County Crime Commission report comparing crime this year to 2006.

That number does check out.

But 2006? That's three years before Mayor Wharton took office.

We compared this June's numbers to 2011, the numbers closest to when Wharton took charge, and found an increase in major violent crime of 6 percent.

So in the last five years at least, violent crime is up.

Next, the ad claims Wharton helped bring 10,000 new jobs in the past two years.

WE'll give that a check for being technically true.

But a closer look shows the mayor's numbers take credit for the entire metro area, including all of Shelby, DeSoto, and three other counties.

We asked Tennessee's Department of Labor for numbers just for the city of Memphis.

When Mayor Wharton took office in 2009, 271,250 Memphians were employed.

Two years ago, which is the period his ad uses, the number fell by almost 2,000 to 269,280 employed.

As of this past June, the number of people employed in Memphis is up to 271, 390.

That's 140 new jobs in the six years since Mayor Wharton took office..

Even if you look at the metro area where the unemployment rate is 7 percent, that's the highest in the entire country among large cities, even more than Detroit.

So, while the ad's claim is technically true when you look at just Memphis, we think it's at least misleading.

In the commercial's final claim, our single mom says this, "Because of A C, he spurred city job creation, so we don't lose another generation to violence and poverty."

We'll give that a question mark.

With virtually no job growth in Memphis, it's hard to make the case the mayor's saved a generation.

But some projects did come online, or are in the pipeline, under his watch that could someday make a difference.

Add it all up, two claims are true, and two others are technically true, but not so much after we dug deeper, and one that's questionable.


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