After Matt Lauer’s disastrous performance moderating NBC’s Commander-in-Chief forum last week, there is a lot of discussion about what role moderators should play in the upcoming – and far more critical – presidential debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Should debate moderators, like Lauer, let the candidates slide when they openly lie, or should they step in and make sure voters know the truth?
The answer is obvious, especially this year when one of the candidates has a disregard for the truth unrivaled by previous presidential nominees.
According to PolitiFact, 71 percent of Trump’s statements checked by the bipartisan organization range anywhere from “Mostly False” to “Pants on Fire.” This is far and beyond the norm for most politicians, and the media’s inability to adequately call him out is partly the reason why he’s made it this close to the presidency in the first place.
During the three critical presidential debates that will take place over the next couple months, the moderators must call him out for his repeated lies.
Even in normal presidential years when two typical major party nominees present to voters their version of the truth, fact-checking is important. Candidates for president must be held accountable for what they say.
The goal of each nominee, whether you support one or the other, is to frame the truth and draw contrasts with their opponent. Whether we like it or not, it’s not necessarily their goal to present the unvarnished truth to voters. That’s why the moderators must say “not so fast” when one of them distorts reality.
While it’s true that Trump has coasted by until now without much media pushback, it doesn’t mean that those running the upcoming debates should let it continue, especially when it matters most.
As The New York Times editorial board wrote last week, “If the moderators of the coming debates do not figure out a better way to get the candidates to speak accurately about their records and policies — especially Mr. Trump, who seems to feel he can skate by unchallenged with his own version of reality while Mrs. Clinton is grilled and entangled in the fine points of domestic and foreign policy — then they will have done the country a grave disservice.”
The media has largely failed to expose and correct Trump’s lies throughout this campaign, but it’s never too late to start.
Sean Colarossi currently resides in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and was an organizing fellow for both of President Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked with Planned Parenthood as an Affordable Care Act Outreach Organizer in 2014, helping northeast Ohio residents obtain health insurance coverage.