Every broadcast and cable news network have announced that they will not be fact checking Donald Trump on screen live during the presidential debate.
On the same day that Trump’s campaign manager admitted that Trump makes up his own facts, Politico reported that all broadcast and cable news networks wouldn’t be fact checking the candidates during the debate:
While on-screen fact-checking could help expose inaccurate or misleading assertions without interrupting the flow of the debate, nearly all of the major cable or broadcast networks, including Univision and Telemundo, said that they would not use any sort on screen fact check or graphics. Of the networks POLITICO surveyed, only Bloomberg TV confirmed that it will be doing on-screen fact checking during the debate.
Thus, the burden of keeping the candidates honest will likely come down to Holt, the only other person on the stage.
NBC has made it clear that they don’t believe that debate moderator Lester Holt should be fact checking, so it is likely that Hillary Clinton will be on the only fact checker at the presidential.
The networks said that real time on screen fact checking would create “technical hurdles,” but the technology is used on a daily basis to provide a fact check if the networks wanted to do so. A simple crawl at the bottom of the screen could tally candidate falsehoods and direct viewers to the network’s website for the complete fact check. It would be fairly easy to implement, so the lack of fact checking by the networks isn’t a matter of can’t. It’s a matter of won’t.
The networks have a financial interest in keeping the drama high during the debate. If it becomes clear that one candidate is losing or getting blown out, the networks risk viewers changing the channel. Each network will also be hyping its own post-debate fact checking as a part of their content generation strategy.
The networks aren’t going to risk losing additional eyeballs and revenue by providing a service in real time that they can make viewers stick around to see after the debate.
If it seems like the networks are tilting the playing field towards Trump, it’s because they are.
Democrats should be steeling themselves for a fight, because not only does Clinton have to beat Trump at a debate, but her party is going to have to the job that the media is refusing to do.
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association