Former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” To which the head of the Commission on Presidential Debates has officially responded: “Says who?”
In a stunning interview with CNN’s Reliable Sources, Janet Brown gave a baffling explanation for why she believes fact checking should be taken off the table at presidential debates.
“I think personally if you start getting into fact checking, I’m not sure. What is a big fact? What is a little fact? And if you and I have different sources of information does your source about the unemployment rate agree with my source? I don’t think it’s a good idea to get the moderator into essentially serving as the Encyclopedia Britannica.”
— John Aravosis (@aravosis) September 25, 2016
The statement was exactly what the Trump campaign had been demanding for weeks and was ecstatic to hear. Going into Monday’s crucial first presidential debate, the Republican candidate understood that the most dangerous hurdle he had to get around was if the moderator called him on his lies. Trump, who has dismissed preparing for the debate out of hand, lies a lot. That’s his strength. He needs it to win.
Politico recently analyzed Trump’s last five days on the campaign trail and found that Donald Trump lies at a rate of once every 3 minutes and 15 seconds.
Trump’s misrepresentations range from false pronouncements (he again wrongly said he opposed the war in Iraq before it began) to the petty (he insisted Clinton had copied him by holding rallies with her plane in the background and insinuated she was “sleeping” when she held no public events).
He contradicted his own policy on providing health care to the poor, overstated the ad-spending discrepancy between his campaign and Clinton’s and exaggerated the size of his primary victories and polling leads.
(For what it’s worth, they also fact-checked Clinton and found that while she, like any politician, does fudge the truth occasionally, Trump’s lying “so greatly exceed[s] Clinton’s as to make the comparison almost ludicrous.” Ouch.)
And while Debate Commissioner Brown used an intentionally vague example (“unemployment rate”), there is no indication that Trump will reserve lies to things so nuanced. One example that might come up: Donald Trump continues to insist that the crime rate in America is going through the roof. This is a blatant lie that is exposed by just quick glance at the FBI’s crime statistics. The debate moderator doesn’t need to serve as the “Encyclopedia Britannica,” he or she just needs to know the basic facts. Big and small. And not let Trump get away with misleading the American people who are tuning in.
Journalists, whose job it is to deal in facts, are furious with this caving to Trump.
If reporters aren't supposed to factcheck at debates, why exactly are reporters moderators to begin with? Why not just have an actor do it?
— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) September 25, 2016
Debate Commission director seems to think there are no facts, just different sources to support any claim. That helps elect President Trump. https://t.co/lPkCQi2KL4
— Mr Media Training (@MrMediaTraining) September 25, 2016
What is the point of a debate moderator other than fact checking? Why is this even a discussion?
— Dan Pfeiffer (@danpfeiffer) September 25, 2016
Meanwhile, Trump’s supporters are actively celebrating. They, just like their candidate, understand that the only path to victory for Trump is if he can get Americans to believe his lies.
@AJDelgado13 Here is a crazy idea…..let the voters at home fact check. Let social media fact check. Candy taught us this.
— Judson McCulloch (@JudsonMcCulloch) September 25, 2016
Hint: If you find yourself in a political party that’s major talking point leading up to a debate is that your candidate should be allowed to lie on stage, you might want to consider finding a new political party.
Featured image via CNN