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Fact Checker: TV ad paints rosy picture of Keystone XL - but is it true?

By Lauren Maschmedt, KTVM Anchor, lmaschmedt@ktvm.com
Published On: Mar 28 2014 11:08:15 PM MDT
Updated On: Mar 28 2014 11:16:22 PM MDT
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

An ad that's airing in Montana and other states across the country paints quite a rosy picture of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

The TV advertisement is making a push for support, with statements like, "one plan brings both side together."

The proposed pipeline would carry tar sand oil from Canada more than 2,000 miles to the U.S. Gulf Coast, and cross through part of Montana.

But it has caused controversy between groups who think it'll negatively impact the environment, and those who say it'll create jobs and secure energy independence.

"Bill Clinton and George Bush both say, 'build the Keystone XL'" the ad claims, citing bipartisan support from the two former presidents.

Both quotes listed in the ad can be traced back to 2012 speeches by Bush and Clinton.

According to Bloomberg, George W. Bush supported the project, listing reasons like job creation and boosting the economy.

Clinton also supported the pipeline. "I think we should embrace it," he said, during a speech for an innovation summit.

Video from the speech shows Clinton's full talk at the podium. Though he seemed to endorse the pipeline, he also cautions about oil and gas development.

"We have massive new recovery technologies in oil and gas which could lead us down the primrose path of thinking we don't have to keep using less energy and developing clean energy and new technologies," he said.

MSU Associate Professor of Political Science David Parker weighed in on the ad.

"Embrace it, and then what else did he say? Embrace it with what type of particular restrictions?" Parker questioned. "That's something else that you need to look for -- what's the full context of the quote? So you always have to take that with a grain of salt."

It's important to take Clinton's quote in context of the speech, but like George W. Bush, he did call for support of the Keystone XL.

"So do 72 percent of Americans," the ad goes on to say, citing a poll to back up the number.

The original poll was conducted by Harris Interactive in December 2013, a reputable polling agency.

But deeper digging shows the poll is paid for by the American Petroleum Institute (API) -- the same organization sponsoring the ad.

Harris randomly polled just over 1,000 registered voters across the country. 72 percent did say they think it's in the national interest to approve the Keystone XL.

But as Parker points out, "They lead you in the first couple of questions to respond to a favorable view, essentially, of the pipeline that's basically creating leading questions."

He said poll questions could have led respondents to answer in support the project, creating a false statistic.

But Parker added he's found that 72 percent isn't much higher than what other independent polls show.

"Generally speaking, about 65 to 70 percent do actually support the Keystone XL," he said.

So the Keystone ad does make true claims, but Parker said viewers aren't getting the full picture.

"They're trying to frame the issue in a way to make it as a favorable as possible," he said, of the API.

A spokesperson with the API said the ad is airing in three states including Montana, New Mexico and North Carolina, in addition to Washington, D.C.

Parker noted all three states have competitive Senate races.