Monday, September 26, 2016

Why Debate Moderators Must Fact Check Candidates

As numerous prior posts have argued, a major role of the mainstream media is to not only report the news but also to expose outright lies and deceit.  Despite this critical role of the media, the head of the Commission on Presidential Debates has stated that he thinks that presidential moderators shouldn't try to fact-check the candidates.  Stated another way, he advocates for candidates to being free to live without any restraint.  In my view, the man needs to be fired and replaced with someone who doesn't have his head up his ass.   A piece in the Washington Post looks at this issue  and the idiocy of not fact checking candidates when confronted with a pathological liar like Donald Trump. Here are highlights:
There are hard questions in life. . . . . What isn't hard, though, is what the unemployment rate is. The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes the answer to that every month.
Despite that, the head of the Commission on Presidential Debates thinks that this is the kind of issue that moderators shouldn't try to fact-check the candidates on. "If you and I have different sources of information," she asked CNN's Brian Stelter, "does your source about the unemployment rate agree with my source?"
The problem is, of course, that there aren't different sources of information about the unemployment rate any more than there are different sources of information about what two plus two equals. There's the BLS, and then there are conspiracy theorists. But that's a lot different from saying, as Trump does, that the unemployment rate is "really" 23 percent or 42 percent or another made-up number. Even the broadest possible definition of under- and unemployment — people who can't find work, people who have given up looking for work, people who "should" be working but for whatever reason aren't, and people who can only find part-time work — wouldn't even be half as much as what Trump is saying. The fact — there's that word again — is that Donald Trump has a penchant for saying things that are false. He's lied about opposing the Iraq War from the beginning, suggested that vaccines cause autism, said that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, claimed that "thousands and thousands" of Muslims in New Jersey were cheering on 9/11, insinuated that Ted Cruz's father had something to do with the JFK assassination, and, of course,questioned whether President Obama was really born in the United States — continuing to do so even after Obama released his birth certificate. It isn't partisan to point out that none of these are true. Nor is it to say that the unemployment rate isn't worse than it was during the Great Depression. 
Letting untruths go unchallenged is, though. It's implicitly taking sides against reality.

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