-- Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has pulled his latest competitor into a war of words after taking credit for Ford's decision to move a plant from Mexico to Ohio -- which critics have pointed out is factually inaccurate.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is also running for the Republican nomination, tweeted, “Nope,” in response to a series of tweets by Trump claiming that his “constant badgering at packed events" led Ford to "cancel their deal to go to Mexico and stay in U.S.”
Kasich said what Trump was referring to was actually a result of Ohio leaders enticing Ford to relocate some production from Mexico to Ohio years ago, and his campaign said Trump was making up his own facts. “Our country needs real leadership and not empty, false rhetoric,” Kasich said in a statement Sunday night.
When asked today if Trump was a liar, Kasich declined to respond. He did, however, tell reporters in Columbus, Ohio, that "bombast...doesn’t win jobs, and those who use bombast as a way to get things done rarely carry the day. But those that make a habit of it, you know, end up once in a while getting caught in a situation where they got to kind of take back what they said.”
Kasich’s defense over the Ford move marks the first time he’s directly confronted Trump, the Republican front-runner. His seemingly reluctant engagement mirrors that of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and a slew of other candidates who have for months performed worse in polls than Trump and who have found themselves with no option but to clash with the billionaire businessman.
Since he launched his campaign in July, Kasich had taken pains to avoid criticizing Trump by name, repeatedly making clear to attendees at his town halls and to reporters that he would not get drawn in on commenting about Trump.
Trump’s latest claim appears to have touched a nerve, though, as both Kasich’s campaign and a super PAC supporting him, New Day for America, sent out press releases calling out the real estate mogul.
“The difference is, this is just wrong,” Kasich campaign spokesman Chris Schrimpf told ABC News. “He’s just wrong on the facts. This is something that a whole bunch of people worked on years ago.”
In his campaign speeches, Trump has railed against Ford’s plans to move production abroad, and on Sunday, he tweeted, “Word is that Ford Motor, because of my constant badgering at packed events, is going to cancel their deal to go to Mexico and stay in U.S.” He also linked to a blog post riddled with inaccuracies about the supposed about-face.
Ford’s plans, however, haven’t actually changed. The automaker told ABC News in a statement that it had “not spoken with Mr. Trump, nor have we made any changes to our plans.”
Ford has in recent years brought some of its production back to the United States from Mexico, although the decision to do so was made in 2011, and it had nothing to do with the plant Trump talks about.
Four years ago, tax incentives backed by Kasich and other Ohio leaders persuaded the automaker to bring truck production to Avon Lake, Ohio. That facility started cranking out F-650 and F-750 medium-duty trucks this summer.
Kasich’s campaign shared a link to a 2011 YouTube video Sunday night showing a Ford official thanking Kasich for his role in pushing for the tax incentives.
This morning ABC News asked Trump whether Kasich was responsible for Ford's move. Trump responded by saying, “He’s a nice man, John Kasich. I like him."
Trump double-downed on his Ford assertion today in New Hampshire. “I heard last night that Ford is moving back to the United States,” he said at an NBC town hall. “They may not do that deal. I get credit for that. I should get credit for that.”
ABC News’ John Santucci and Brad Mielke contributed reporting to this article.