- The Washington Times - Monday, September 26, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Hillary Clinton’s campaign poured it on heavy Sunday: Moderators should fact-check Donald Trump’s every assertion in Monday night’s much anticipated debate.

On the Sunday morning news shows, Mrs. Clinton’s vice presidential pick Tim Kaine called fact-checking pivotal to the debate, her campaign manager said it was “unfair” for her to have to play “traffic cop” to Mr. Trump’s lies, while also having to articulate her vision for America, and John Podesta, the chairman of the Clinton campaign said Mrs. Clinton has a “challenge” on her hands because Mr. Trump “makes stuff up.”

For good measure, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign spokesman, Brian Fallon, added this line on Twitter: “In addition to need for moderator to do basic fact-checking, equally important for post-debate assessments of Trump not to ignore his lies.”

Translation: Help us media! Mrs. Clinton can’t do it alone, we need your help!

Despite what the Clinton campaign thinks, it’s not the moderators job to fact-checking on the spot — that’s the candidate’s role.

Monday night’s debate is 90 minutes long. Imagine if a moderator had to fact-check each candidate on the spot. Not only would they be talking all the time, but they would also be making some editorial decisions, for debunking some spin (especially carefully crafted lies) requires judgment.

For example, let’s recall Candy Crowley’s now famous interjection in the 2012 debate between Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama. Mr. Romney criticized Mr. Obama for not characterizing the Benghazi attacks as an act of terror. Ms. Crowley then decided to correct the record and took Mr. Obama’s side, saying he did “did call it an act of terror.”

Except, on the day the comments were being disputed — Sept. 12, 2012, in the Rose Garden — Mr. Obama didn’t say the Benghazi attacks were the direct result of terrorism. He only said the word “terror” after broadening his remarks to a discussion of the world post 9/11 and the importance of freedom.

“No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation,” Mr. Obama said at the time.

As we all know now, after the congressional Benghazi Commission, the administration went to great lengths to obscure the fact that Benghazi was an act of terror — and this was the main point Mr. Romney was trying to make. Although all the facts weren’t at his disposal (because they had not yet been uncovered and had, up until that point been spun), Ms. Crowley’s “fact check” for the president — on the technicality that he said the word ‘terror’ — helped mask the real truth.

The head of the Commission on Presidential Debates agreed on Sunday. Speaking on CNN’s Reliable Sources, Janet Brown said that it’s not the moderator’s job to fact-check.

“What is a big fact? What is a little fact?” she said. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to get the moderator into essentially serving as the Encyclopedia Britannica.”

The comment came to the consternation of many liberals and to some in the — who believe the spin of of “false equivalency.”

“If reporters aren’t supposed to fact-check debates, why exactly are reporters moderators to begin with? Why not just have an actor to do it,” CBS political reporter Sopan Deb wrote on Twitter.

A swift response came from Mr. Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway.

“No, @SopanDeb, point is the Hillary campaign is pressuring media to help them prop up their candidate. Looks like you got the message,” she tweeted.

It’s sure not hard to agree with her.


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