Politifact looked into O'Donnell after a reader asked the organization to assess the validity of one of the prime time host's "Lean Forward" ads for MSNBC. The "Lean Forward" ads, which have a distinct style, are directed by award-winning filmmaker Spike Lee. The commercials feature network hosts pontificating about political issues of the day while seemingly in mid-conversation with Lee. Hosts including Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Andrea Mitchell, Al Sharpton, Ed Schultz and O'Donnell are featured the ads.
In one of the many ads, O'Donnell discusses the 1944 passing of the GI Bill. Politifact investigated O'Donnell's claim that critics called the GI Bill welfare. "It’s the most successful educational program that we’ve ever had in this country — and the critics called it welfare," O'Donnell said in the ad.
Politifact rated this statement "mostly false" after reading a reporter's 1949 article that detailed the bill's roots, looking through commentaries from the early 1950s, and speaking to multiple historians. Overall, Politifact said, "There were concerns aired as Congress debated the matter that the unemployment benefits would lead some beneficiaries to laze around. But we ultimately found no evidence of critics referring to the GI Bill as welfare. O’Donnell’s claim rates Mostly False."