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Saturday, March 23, 2019

Published with permission from Media Matters for America

Lester Holt challenged Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on claims he made during the first presidential debate, highlighting the value of having moderators who are willing to fact-check false claims in real-time.

During the September 26 presidential debate, moderator Holt challenged Trump on inaccurate claims the candidate made about releasing his tax returns, promoting the birther conspiracy, and supporting the war in Iraq:

Holt stayed out of much of the debate, but intervened when Trump made glaring factual errors about his own record. Holt’s restraint made his fact-checks more powerful, drawing significant attention to Trump’s falsehoods, and tripping up the candidate before he could turn those lies into attacks on his opponent.

Holt’s fact-checking likely had a significant impact on the millions of voters for whom the debate was a first hard look at the candidates. But it’s just one battle in the larger struggle over whether moderators should fact-check the candidates in real-time. Both campaigns have argued over the issue, with Trump’s campaign predictably arguing that moderators should stay out of factual disputes during the debates.

That argument has gained some notable supporters — NBC’s Matt Lauer was harshly criticized for failing to fact-check Trump’s claims about opposing the Iraq War during this month’s presidential forum. Fox News’ Chris Wallace, who will moderate the final presidential debate, has already said he doesn’t believe it’s job to be a “truth squad.” Even the executive director of the Commission on Presidential Debates told CNN recently that moderators shouldn’t be fact-checkers.

But leaving the fact-checking to the candidates, rather than the moderators, can contribute to spreading misinformation among voters. Research suggests that audiences that watch this kind of “he said/she said” debate end up feeling less capable of figuring out the truth, causing some to give up trying to resolve factual disputes altogether. Moderators who can carefully choose to intervene during important factual disputes offer a powerful antidote to that kind of passive misinformation.

Lester Holt’s performance set a powerful example of the value that measured fact-checks can have in keeping candidate’s honest. If the other debate moderators follow his lead, they’ll be doing voters, and the whole of campaign journalism, a real service.

Photo and video: PBS/Media Matters for America

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8 responses to “VIDEO: Lester Holt Proved We Need Fact-Checking In Debates”

  1. JPHALL says:

    Journalism at last? Wow, what a concept!

  2. Godzilla says:

    If only they would do it fairly (which the Liberal media will never do)

    • TZToronto says:

      The difference between Trump and Clinton is that Clinton will admit that she did something, claimed something, or voted in a particular way but has now changed her mind. Trump, being the natural prevaricator that he is, simply says that what he did or said never happened. Believe me!

    • I Am Helpy says:

      All you got is … a video of her doing her job. Wow.

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  4. Budjob says:

    Wouldn’t it be great,if,the rest of the news media was as HONEST,and,RESPECTED as Lester Holt is!!?? You rock Lester!! Please don’t change anything!!

  5. Irishgrammy says:

    The past 15 months of Trumps incessant lying, bullying, name calling, incoherent babble of no-nothing “policy” has been something to behold, but the past week since the debate, it has been something there hasn’t been a word in the English language as an adjective to convey the complete and utter insanity off the rails blatant lies coming from this man twisted brain and now he wants all his little minions to “back him up” with some more epic lying…….or what Trump ……..is this disgusting creature going to “fire” them and clean house AGAIN, put them up against a wall and shoot them, just what is Trump going to do with all those sycophants that live in Trumpland when they don’t comply with his dictates….On Meet the Press in the afternoon a Trump mouth piece was lying about how Trump “won” the debate according to “all” the polls……..of course he was talking about the internet polls where his disciples could vote again and again…….the scientific polls were to be ignored that has Clinton winning the polls where only one vote counted, fancy that……Chuck Todd was incredulous….shocked…….almost speechless as should have been anyone who was watching and has a functioning brain…..This has been a surreal past 15 months, utterly off the charts and has shown the ugly underbelly of purposely uninformed ignorance and hate that exists in this country and a real indifference to decency and what is morally right. This election cannot come to a merciful close soon enough for me!!!

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