Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler gave Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe (D.) "Four Pinocchios" for a campaign ad that falsely linked Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin to a chain of dental clinics that performed harmful and unnecessary procedures on children.
The ad, which was released Sept. 24, claimed Youngkin "took over" Small Smiles, "a string of dental clinics preying on unsuspecting poor families," when he worked at the Carlyle Group. But the Carlyle Group merely provided loans underwriting another company's acquisition of Small Smiles, and Youngkin did not participate in the deal. And although Youngkin would go on to become CEO of the Carlyle Group, he was not in charge at the time. A Bahraini investment firm owned a majority stake in the dental clinics, with the Carlyle Group owning a small portion.
Despite media fact checks debunking other false claims, McAuliffe has used the same attacks to go after his opponent and the Republican Party during his campaign. He has said Youngkin "wants to ban abortion" and that he "inherited the largest budget deficit in the history of the state from the Republicans" during his first term as governor. The Post also gave McAuliffe "Four Pinocchios" in June for doubling down on his false budget claim.
The fate of Small Smiles became the subject of a prolonged federal investigation and ended in a $24 million-dollar settlement with the families it had harmed.
McAuliffe leads Youngkin in the Virginia governor's race by just 5 points, according to the September Real Clear Politics average. In September, the Cook Political Report moved the race to a "tossup," citing "a worsening national environment for Democrats" as President Joe Biden's poll numbers plummeted.
The election will take place Nov. 2.