Fact Check: GOP ad spins five-alarm falsehood that Walz backed defunding police

In a new television ad filled with flames and carnage, the Republican Governors Association is falsely tying DFL Gov. Tim Walz to an effort to defund police, a FOX 9 Fact Check found.

The ad, which is part of a $750,000 commitment in the final days of Walz's re-election against GOP challenger Scott Jensen, flashes the words "murders, robberies, assaults, rapes" on screen. The four violent crime categories all increased in 2021, according to statewide data.

"But what is Gov. Tim Walz's response? He pushed to defund our police," the ad says.

There's plenty of evidence to the contrary.

Walz opposed a 2021 Minneapolis ballot measure that would've eliminated a minimum police staffing level. The governor voiced his opposition in an interview with FOX 9 at the Minnesota State Fair, angering activists who said Walz hadn't lived up to his commitments on police accountability.

"I don’t even know what the yes and no is on this. I think folks are confused," Walz told FOX 9 about the ballot measure at the time.

The GOP's ad cites a June 2020 Star Tribune article that chronicles Walz and DFL lawmakers' push to change police training and tactics during a special session following the police murder of George Floyd.

Walz and Democratic lawmakers released a wide-ranging list of proposals, including changes to the arbitration process for disciplined officers and grants for community nonviolence groups. Cuts to police funding weren't included in the list Walz endorsed.

After six weeks of negotiations in the divided Legislature, lawmakers in both parties overwhelmingly approved a more limited package. Among the changes: a statewide ban on chokeholds and additional use-of-force reporting requirements. Walz signed the bill into law.

Walz 'missing in action'

Next, the ad highlights Walz's response to the riots in the days after Floyd's murder. "When Minneapolis was burning, Walz was missing in action. He refused to act," the ad says.

Walz drew widespread criticism for his lack of a public presence at the start of the unrest.

Before the rioting escalated on May 27, 2020, Walz did a news conference that morning and focused his comments on Floyd's death. The governor didn't do another news conference until two days later, after the Minneapolis Police Third Precinct burned the previous night.

"I certainly don't think it's important to be on TV," Walz said, when reporters asked why he hadn't spoken publicly for 48 hours.

FOX 9 has extensively reported on how Minneapolis officials and the Walz administration disagreed on May 27 over the callout of the Minnesota National Guard, delaying the Guard's mobilization.

Walz activated soldiers on May 28. Within two days, he ordered the biggest deployment of the Minnesota National Guard since World War II. The Guard, Minnesota State Patrol, and local police restored order after four violent, uncertain nights.

Because this part of the claim highlights public criticism of Walz but inaccurately says Walz refused to act, it's not the whole story.

Jensen and Walz are scheduled to meet for their final debate on Friday. Walz continues to lead Jensen, though the race has tightened since the summer.

FOX 9 Fact Check: Here's our rating system

  • True: accurate information that requires little or no additional context
  • Needs clarification: mostly accurate information that leaves out context that would be helpful to voters
  • Not the whole story: the information presented leaves out a significant amount of context that could lead voters to a different conclusion
  • Misleading: partial information presented in a way that misleads voters
  • False: inaccurate information, or information presented out of context

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