* Anybody who has paid any attention for the past few years has heard Gov. Bruce Rauner talk about his Swedish grandparents. He particularly idolized his grandfather…
“My best friend growing up was my grandfather on my mom’s side. Swedish immigrant. Didn’t speak much English. Lived in a double wide trailer in a cornfield outside Whitewater, Wisconsin. Dairy farmer. Taught me to milk cows. Taught me about huntin’ and fishin.’ Taught me about hard work and giving back.”
I also idolized my maternal grandfather and spent countless glorious days on his farm. Rauner and I spoke briefly about this shared history a while ago. My paternal grandmother lived in a trailer for a time, so we had that in common, too.
It was of little surprise then that, as he appeared with immigrant activists to sign a controversial law putting limits on policing of the undocumented, Rauner retold his own favorite story of immigrants — the Ericksons from Sweden.
“My grandparents were proud immigrants to the United States of America, here to Illinois in the late 1800s,” Rauner said. “My grandparents did not speak English when they were young.”
Variations of the Erickson story have been staples of Rauner appearances for years. But the key word here is “variations,” because the governor has not always been consistent in the telling.
“He kept on talking about his immigrant grandfather, immigrant from Sweden who could barely speak English, sometimes he would say he didn’t speak English. He also said his grandmother was like that,” said the BGA’s Bob Secter, who authored the piece in partnership with Politfact. “So we went back and looked at the census records to find out about it and they just aren’t immigrants. They were born in Wisconsin.”
In a YouTube compilation on the topic, there was only one time (of several instances in which he discussed his immigrant relatives) that Rauner, when asked by a reporter, clarified that he was speaking about his great-grandparents.
Records from U.S. Censuses taken between 1910 and 1940, the latest year publicly available, clearly show that both of Rauner’s maternal grandparents were born in Wisconsin — Clarence Erickson in 1901 and Viola Erickson (nee Wedin) in 1900. In other words, neither of them were immigrants.
What’s more, the census shows that Viola’s mother — Rauner’s great-grandmother — was also born in Wisconsin. Viola’s father, while born in Sweden, emigrated to the U.S. at age 6 in 1868. As for Clarence, the census describes him as speaking English and having a seventh grade education. In the 1940 count, his profession was listed as “buttermaker.” […]
We have no reason to doubt that Rauner’s grandparents meant the world to him. But the Census plainly refutes his claim that they were immigrants. What’s more, both couldn’t have come to the U.S. in the late 1800s because they weren’t even born until the early 1900s — in Wisconsin, not Sweden. Rauner’s assertion in August that his grandparents immigrated to Illinois is yet another inaccuracy.
Since we don’t have a time machine, we can’t say for certain what language was spoken in the Erickson and Wedin childhood homes. But to the extent that Rauner implies the Ericksons’ facility with English was limited, Census reports refute that notion as well.
Topping all that is the acknowledgement by Rauner himself in his 2014 Tribune interview that his grandparents were not immigrants. Still, he continued to repeat the claim on many occasions.
Census records and Rauner’s own admission show that this statement has no credibility. That is why it earns our lowest possible rating, Pants On Fire.
Frankly, this revelation has disturbed me more than anything else I’ve ever read or learned about Gov. Rauner. To lie about his own grandfather, a man he clearly loved, to score political points is just beyond the pale.
And if he won’t tell the truth about that, how can anybody trust him on anything else?
I’m with you. Also weird to lie about something that can so easily be proven incorrect. The odd MJM soup story he keeps repeating is different. No one in IL politics believes that story, but no one can prove what did or did not occur in a private conversation.
This was my reaction, too, Rich. I can’t claim to have as close of a relationship to my grandfather, but I can never imagine making stuff up about him. It’s so bizarre to me that I can’t even articulate why it’s bizarre. I don’t know how to explain why you shouldn’t lie about your grandpa.
My niece and nephew call their great-grandma “grandma”. Since he already clarified that he was actually speaking about his great-grandparents, isn’t it possible he just didn’t use “great” when describing them?
If that’s on the table, it brings the whole story in question. Was his grandfather really a dairy farmer, or was that just part of the story to appeal to farmers? Did his grandfather teach him how to hunt, or was that just part of the story to appeal to hunters? Typical phoniness from Rauner, matching his absurd costumes and g-dropping.
Cut Bruce some slack. As my great-grandfather, a famous Illinoisan named Abraham Lincoln always said, “Honesty is overrated, and Bruce Rauner is the greatest politician to ever grace the land of me.”
- Almost the weekend - Thursday, Sep 7, 17 @ 10:50 am:
Just imagine all the times he told this story to close business deals when he was at GTCR. Or his college application, job interviews. I agree with Rich this is startling. Having opposing political views is one thing, this is a whole other matter.
Rauner purposely lied about a fact, as a adult, he knew was patently false and a provable lie that a home willing to dig could find with a relative (pun, no pun intended, up to you) ease speaks volumes to a gross lack of character Bruce Rauner has had well before his run for governor, and this lacking continues to build upon itself with more revelations like this coming to light.
There’s more time with an incumbent to fact check than trying to keep up with a wealthy challenger spending millions solely on “Pat Quinn fails”
Rauner’s continued lie about his grandfather is disturbing.
It’s strange and disturbing. But it’s also a dumb lie. Someone obviously told Rauner that it’s more effective to say, “grandparents” instead of “great-grandparents.”
I don’t think it makes a difference, but it does show Rauner as someone who cares more about political narrative than simply telling the truth.
But — we knew this. We knew there was no midnight call to Madigan on election night. We now there are no old ladies coming up to Rauner and saying he’s the only hope for Illinois. We know there are not hundreds of companies lined up and waiting to come to Illinois.
The point, as George Lakoff repeatedly points out, is that it’s not the truth or falsity that matters in politics. It’s the “contextual frames” activated by the statement. In other words, when true believers hear the words, they immediately “get it”. True? Doesn’t matter. It’s just the feelings activated by the words and sentiment. Here — the narrative is: I come from humble beginnings. I understand your frustration. I had it, too. I’m as apple pie as you are.
My favorite memory of my grandfather involved Blackhawk hockey tickets. He took me to church. During services I heard the person in front talk about needing to get rid of a couple of tix. As you would expect from a young kid, I asked (more like begged) my grandfather to ask about them. He got the tix and they were great seats just rows from the glass. I had a great time. I never found out if it cost him anything for the tickets.
Rauner is a salesman who is smart enough to realize that he could make more money by buying and parting out or selling companies than he could by parting out or selling used cars. His moral compass is governed by “the end justifies the means.” He takes a few facts and weaves them into a story that he believes will help make the sale. The deal is more important than impeccable veracity.
I havent believed things that he said since he first claimed to be a conservative republican. His lies just keep growing. If he was a wooden boy, a whole flock of buzzards could perch on his nose by now.
- Michael Westen - Thursday, Sep 7, 17 @ 11:11 am:
It wouldn’t surprise me if Bruce Rauner never even met his grandparents.
Let’s not forget the recent whopper he told about his attending services at African-American churches most Sunday mornings. Yet another tale that was instantly, easily, demonstrably, definitively proven false–yet he persists.
When laser focus is on self gain (wealth, power), then truth/lies are used to fit the need of achieving the goal. Amoral attitude
prevails. I’m wondering if Trump and Rauner attended the same secret seminars of billionaires like last seasons House of Cards.
Rich, the guy has been a proven liar on so many things, it’s not a surprise he’d lie about his grandparents. Wholly invented phone calls on Election Night 2014 with Madigan and Cullerton. Continues to invent conversations with Madigan. Goes on and on about growing up middle class when his dad was VP at Motorola!
Terrible comparison. It is widely believed that Clinton is insincere. A lack of enthusiasm stemming from voter distrust (esp among Democrats who supported Obama in 2008) largely explains Clinton’s failed candidacy. If Rauner’s people still trust and support him in 2018, it says a lot more about their inability to admit he’s a liar than it does about Democrats, many of whom noted Clinton’s failings and abandoned ship.
Rauner made up this Immigrant Grandparents story to con immigrants into thinking he can understand their struggle. That is why he likes to dress as a cowboy, construction worker, biker with pins on his vest,Carhart and plaid, junky van, 18 dollar timex watch, droppin’ G’s. He is laughing at us and thinks we are unwashed dummies.
Rauner is not a fan of the literal meaning of his own words.
“Grandparent” is a category for Rauner, not an identity. Like “met with” can mean a whole series of different things for him, including an unanswered phone message to an associate of the person he “met with.”
It’s a bad habit; he’s just not used to his words being questioned or fact-checked.
Rauner never mentions his parents on the campaign trail. Can’t blame him. Dad was a top executive for a telephone company and an attorney. Bruce grew up in Deerfield, a privileged beginning.
So Bruce claims his grandfather’s values.
Now it seems the life experience that shaped those values is a bit of a sham.
The fact that his great grandfather emigrated from Sweden doesn’t mitigate things: Rauner never knew his great grandfather.
At this point I would be traveling to Whirewater if I were Politico. Doublewides weren’t invented until the late 60’s. I would look at property records to see if any part of Rauner’s story is true. I would also ask him to recollect just how often he was in Whitewater, why we haven’t seen any family photos from grandpa’s house. Seems if grandpa did indeed teach him to hunt and fish, there ought to be atleast one childhood picture. I know I have pictures of my first catch. Doesn’t everyone?
Bruce is an unrepentant liar. Upon completing a tour of UI Research Park in early 2015 he informed me three companies/start-ups were leaving if he “didn’t get his agenda” in the first six months.
I asked who they were, as per my role as Mayor at the time, to reach out to them and negotiate to keep them here. Of course, he would not reveal who spoke to him, simply repeating, “Oh, believe me, they are out of here if we don’t get these fixes”.
Long story short - those on the tour confirmed no one said any such thing & no UIRP tenants have pulled up stakes and bolted because we don’t have term limits and their parking lots and green space is still tended to by union employees…
I’m pretty disappointed that you guys don’t believe him. Why? Because I know what Rauner says is true.
You see, my great grandfather ran a circus in Wisconsin and one day he told me that whenever they ran out of butter, they bought from a Swedish buttermaker living in a double-wide, down by the Wisconsin River.
The buttermaker spoke not a single word of English. Instead he would smile and point at his butter churns and just knew what kind of butter you needed, and how much.
Of course, there was also the politician who worked in two presidential administrations who was always touting the fact that he had street smarts because he had a uncle or somebody who was a former Chicago police officer, so that gave him instant street cred.
I am joining the discussion the nit pick is about viewing another’s faults while ignoring ones own does not accomplish anything. By your words “And if he won’t tell the truth about that, how can anybody trust him on anything else?” does that mean we could not have trusted Clinton upon anything if she became President?
Rauner missed his calling, which is “storyteller”.
- The Real Just Me - Thursday, Sep 7, 17 @ 3:27 pm:
Rauner was born on third base. His dad was a big-wig at Motorola back in the day when that meant something. Rauner went to the best, most expensive schools, without having to apply for a tax-credit scholarship. None of this talk about grandparents, true or not, changes that.
How does pointing out the fact that someone else is a liar also, help in anyway? So there is more than one liar. That does not make either one of them any more trustworthy. It just shows there is no way to defend the fact he is a liar and always has been.
This is the kind of stuff Rod Blagojevich and Mark Kirk used to pull. The story was always too good to be true, and the fact Rauner repeats it not just in speeches but also in one-on-one conversations raises questions about whether he is capable of being truthful or even knows the difference.
This is not, BTW, something “all politicians do”, but it might become more common if we are not careful.