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Monday, March 25, 2019

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters. 

Sunday show hosts failed to sufficiently press Donald Trump’s surrogates on the president-elect’s blatant lies about voter fraud in the 2016 election. Journalists must raise the bar even higher when interviewing Trump and his surrogates, from merely calling out falsehoods to actively putting statements into context and offering facts and data. Failure to aggressively push back on lies and contextualize misleading statements in the “post-truth” era of Trump risks leaving viewers unclear about which party is ultimately correct and tells them only what they don’t know, rather than ensuring they are informed.

On November 27, Trump tweeted, “I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” In fact, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, is expected to win the popular vote by about 2.5 million votes. Additionally, the Washington Post’s Phillip Bump found just three documented cases of voter fraud in the 2016 presidential election. Nevertheless, Trump’s surrogates later defended his lie in a conference call with reporters.

On December 4, CBS host John Dickerson interviewed Reince Priebus, who Trump has tapped for White House chief of staff, on Face the Nation and addressed Trump’s claims that he would have won the popular vote if not for mass voter fraud.

While Dickerson did tell Priebus that “there is no evidence” that millions voted illegally, he made a series of missteps. First, he allowed Priebus to cite a Wall Street Journal op-ed that recycled discredited evidence, failing to note that the evidence was flawed and misleading. Second, while Dickerson asked if Trump needs to “tighten up his standards of proof,” he allowed Priebus to redirect the conversation away from Trump’s lies to a discussion of Trump’s penchant for tweeting in general. Finally, Dickerson never mentioned any of the numerous studies that show that claims of widespread voter fraud are false.

CBS compounded the problem by issuing a tweet that merely read “Reince Priebus: ‘It’s possible’ millions voted illegally.” Several media outlets have recently botched their headlines and tweets when reporting on false statements made by Trump, omitting context that would illustrate the inaccuracies.

CBS later deleted the tweet, replacing it with this one:

ABC’s George Stephanopoulos interviewed Vice President-elect Mike Pence on This Week and also raised the question of Trump’s voter fraud tweets. Stephanopoulos did repeatedly press Pence to offer evidence for Trump’s claim and consistently pointed out that these claims of voter fraud are false, but he failed to provide counter-evidence to effectively establish that Trump was wrong. Stephanopoulos pushed back on Pence when he cited a Pew Research Center study as evidence that Trump’s voter fraud claims could be true, noting that the authors of the study said “it is not any evidence about what happened in this election.” This pushback, however, was insufficient to properly contextualize for the audience why this evidence is flawed, leaving it up to them to figure out which Pew study is being cited and why it doesn’t apply. Stephanopoulos also neglected to cite studies that provide persuasive proof that claims of voter fraud are grossly exaggerated and largely inaccurate.

Given the total lack of proof for the right-wing’s voter fraud claims, journalists must be prepared to more thoroughly press Trump surrogates if he continues to lie. And more generally, journalists must be armed with the facts and data they need to hold surrogates accountable on the variety of issues about which President-elect Trump lies. In what has been dubbed a “post-truth” presidency, it will no longer be sufficient to merely say “that’s false.” Journalists must call out instances of cherry-picked data or flawed sources and counteract the misuse of data. Journalists can and must harness the power of fact-checking by using studies and data to relentlessly press Trump and his surrogates in order to convey the truth to the American public.

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11 responses to “Sunday Show Hosts Fail To Hold Trump Surrogates Accountable”

  1. rome44 says:

    Dickerson and Stephanopoulos need to grow a pair, both ask questions than allow Priebus, Pence and Kellyanne to unload making every conceivable argument to deflect from the outrageous comments by Trump. They just sit there like bumps on a log.
    Trump may be right about the media, I believe they need to grow a spine too.
    They shouldn’t let these people off the hook until they answer truthfully.
    To do otherwise they will just give you a snow job.
    It’s gut wrenching watching these anchors on Sundays being brow beaten by these
    CBS & ABC need to replace both of these men with tough anchors who have no qualms holding these peoples feet to the fire or else deny them the publicity.

    • dpaano says:

      I’ve given up totally watching Sunday morning political shows…….they are ALL a joke! They let Trump and his cohorts get away with spouting lies and conspiracy theories or deflecting from the REAL questions without pushing them to answer! It’s ridiculous and a big waste of TV time…..I’d rather watch “I Love Lucy” reruns for all the good it does me! This nation deserves to have HONEST and DECENT journalists, not just pundits that repeat all the BS that the Republicans throw out there like trash!

      • KenyaB says:

        We all deserve better. All this fake news and folk coming to DC with rifles to be vigilante.

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    • KenyaB says:

      Remember, Trump met with the networks. Evidently he gave them their marching orders. The gameplan now is to normalize Trump because we are supposed to be the idiots who voted for him. For 18 months They have normalized Trump when his game plan is out of Hitler’s playbook. CNN pays his surrogates to lie on CNN for more than 18 months. Supporting his every lie with a bunch of nothing and more lies. The electoral college is favors rural areas with a declining population. States and not people elect the President with all the politics of states. People in urban areas vote when they are not supposed to. Some of us have to continue to complain and hold their feet to the fire. If we do not, Trump and Bannon will usher in the 4th Reich. These people need to prepare better for these interviews.

  2. dpaano says:

    Unfortunately, journalists nowadays are useless! We need Walter Cronkite and more if his ilk to take over. These so-called “journalists” are merely talking heads for the owners of their RW media employers! None of them seem to have the balls to do anything to prove to the nation all the lies that Trump has been telling…..they’re either afraid of him or are just plain useless!

  3. Gerald says:

    As PT Barnum said. There is a sucker born every minute. Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes fact to the ill informed.

  4. EMS says:

    If millions of voters as Trump claims have committed voter fraud, then they must have been caught and counted for his statements have any truth to them. If true, then common sense would assume that there are just as many who committed voter fraud who were NOT caught. Doesn’t matter who they voted for because it’s the confidence in the voting process that is MORE important. With that many fraudulent votes, we have no choice but to have a REDO instead of a recount full of fraudulent ballots.

    Aside from a couple of dozen people voting in local elections, and some of those concerning ballot questions, the only reports I’ve read are…with almost NO coverage by national news TV programs.

    There is just too many SERIOUSLY IMPORTANT things happening that significantly effect every single one of us and NEVER gets any media attention, NOBODY is held accountable for anything they say or do….especially Donald Trump and his talking heads.

    As far as I’m concerned, the biggest fraud has been AGAINST voters by the politicians, in some cases, aided by the Supreme Court…the so-called “conservative” Supreme Court. Gutting the Voting Rights Act, Citizens United decision, gerrymandering, ridiculous voter requirements which obviously are intended to confuse, misinform and intimidate selective voters…anything that would make it extremely difficult, fearful, or prohibitive to cast a ballot, and oh so many other devious and deceptive manipulations.

    • PrecipitousDrop says:

      When the president-elect states that 3 MILLION non-citizens have voted illegally, it’s time to re-do the entire election. Same ballots. Same polling places. Same voter rolls. Different date.

  5. yabbed says:

    Hey, the media is made up of rich people who won’t be hurt by the Trump policies. And they love the idea of being able to beat Trump with a stick and drive his impeachment. It’s all about them, really. They don’t care any more than Trump and his swamp dwellers about what happens to ordinary working Americans.

  6. Thomas Martin says:

    They move into the category of “false news” when they don’t present or go after facts. Get ready for the National Stupid Fest. We all will have the best seats in the universe. The current media is normalizing stupidity and it all starts with our National Chief of Stupidity. He is actually becoming a stupider stupid.

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