When PC Leader Doug Ford was the only party leader who declined to participate in a Toronto debate organized by Black community organizers, the Liberals criticized him as being out-of-touch.
In social media copy that was also shared by some Liberal riding accounts, the party stated: "Doug Ford says he 'loves the blacks' but wasn't at the Town Hall tonight... Did Doug Ford deliberately choose to ignore the black community leaders debate? #ONBlackVote #WhereIsDoug #onpoli"
There is one problem with this statement: QP Briefing cannot find any record of Doug claiming that he "loves the Blacks," a phrasing that would be considered offensive.
We asked the Liberal Party to provide a reference to where we could find this quotation, and they conceded it was an error.
"It appears the tweet accidentally referred to Doug when it should have said Trump," David Clarke, executive director of the Ontario Liberal Party, said in an e-mail on Monday night. "We've corrected the error and are working to ensure accuracy to re-issue it. This was a mistake and, unlike Ford with his autism comment, we can admit them rather than lying about them."
Simon Jefferies, a spokesman for the PC Party, said that it was about time the Liberals owned up to what he called their record of errors. "For the first time in 15 years, it's finally nice to see this politically corrupt government take accountability for one error. From cancelled gas plants to skyrocketing hydro rates, our focus is on the errors that have negatively impacted the pocketbooks of hard-working Ontarians."
The party deleted the tweet, which was originally published on April 11 and was shared 80 times, after being contacted by QP Briefing on Monday. They did not issue a correction at the time clarifying that they had made an earlier error. They have since issued a new tweet attributing the phrase "loves the Blacks" to Donald Trump, and drawing a parallel to Ford's rhetoric.
Donald Trump says he "loves the blacks." Did Doug Ford deliberately choose to ignore the black community leaders debate?https://t.co/nSUjPMGj34#ONBlackVote#WhereisDoug#onpoli pic.twitter.com/dRPcmyG0Ws
— Ontario Liberal Party (@OntLiberal) April 17, 2018
The tweet links to the New Pittsburgh Courier Online, citing a 2016 article as a source for the Trump quotation "loves the Blacks." But that article cites Trump saying the phrase "the Blacks," but does not include the word "loves".
The Courier Online appears to be referencing a 2011 Trump radio appearance where the now-U.S. president told Fred Dicker that "I have a great relationship with the Blacks. I’ve always had a very great relationship with the Blacks."
That's not what the Liberals, who maintain a website called "Facts Still Matter" and are running an ad campaign based on quotes from Ford, quoted.
We followed up with the Liberal Party about Trump's quote too, and Clarke indicated that the party meant to paraphrase the U.S. president's comments, but turned them into a direct quote.
"We made an error in our tweet and should not have used a paraphrase as a quote. We should have done better in this situation," Clarke emailed on Tuesday afternoon. In other words, the original tweet misattributed a quotation that Donald Trump did not directly say to Doug Ford. The second tweet turned paraphrasing into a direct quote. "As you know, we regularly fact check the other parties and we need to hold ourselves to the same standard."
Asked if the Liberals owed the PC leader an apology, Clarke added: "Unlike Mr. Ford, we’re more than happy to apologize and take responsibility when we get something wrong."
Andray Domise, director of communications for the Black Business and Professional Association, said that, beyond getting their facts wrong, the Liberal messaging misses out on what's important in confronting Ford on his record.
"There's a way to have a conversation about how, in my opinion, Doug Ford has not been very respectful of the Black communities," said Domise, who did communications for the April 11 debate. "But comparing him to Trump and paraphrasing him, and using his absence at the debate to try to stoke some sort of fear? That's not the approach," added Domise, who unsuccessfully ran against the late Rob Ford for a city council seat in 2014.
"There's a substantive critique to be made of Doug Ford that would include, for example, his views on the anti-racism directorate, his views on carding, his views on the minimum wage, his views on children being taken into the custody of children's aid services at a rate far exceeding our representation in the broader population," he said. "But compressing all those issues into 280 characters or less and making the comparison to Trump while getting the words wrong? It comes off as exploitative."
He added that he was disappointed in the messaging, "especially after the last few years with the Liberal Party engaging the Black community in a very intense and very edifying dialogue."
Domise also explained what makes a phrase like "the Blacks," which has been said by Trump, offensive. "When you say 'the Blacks' what you're doing is lumping us all together in a shapeless monolith," said Domise, who added that it tries to paint people as a "foreign entity" rather than individuals with agency. "We are people just like everyone else."