As I reported on this site not too long ago, Fact Checkers have shown that only 9% of what comes out of Trump’s mouth is true or mostly true. (If Prevaricating Were An Olympic Sport, Trump Wins Gold, Hands Down)
With numbers like that it is easy to see why the media is having a hard time calling out Trump on his my “equivocations and prevarications.” It’s like the game Whack-a- Mole … as soon as one lie is beaten back, three more pop up.
I actually took pity on poor Matt Lauer as he “moderated” the first ever Commander-in-Chief forum last week. Lauer got a lot of heat from almost every corner of the media world for not fact checking Trump. But with lies coming at a fast and furious pace, Lauer never had a chance.
Matt Lauer’s performance raises a fundamental question: is it the responsibility of the moderator to fact check a candidate?
Chris Wallace of Fox News will be moderating the third and final debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. He believes it is not the moderator’s place to call out a candidate on what he himself knows to be a lie.
“That’s not my job,“ said Wallace. “I do not believe that it’s my job to be a truth squad. It’s up to the other person to catch them on that.”
As much as I hate to say this, Wallace is right. In a debate setting, the moderator’s job is not to call out a candidate’s lying. It is his or her job to be a neutral referee: one who decides which questions to ask, makes sure candidates don’t go over their time, and keeps the conversation moving. That’s it.
The responsibility for correcting blatant falsehoods falls on the other candidate. If he or she fails to recognize the lie in real-time, the faux pas is not necessarily fatal. The odds are great that their campaign, professional fact-checkers, and reporters will catch the fabrication and blast it out on social media in the blink of an eye.
Matt Lauer’s questioning of Trump came not as part of a debate but as a set of separate interviews with the two presidential candidates. As such, there was no opposing party to fact check the lying candidate. That was Lauer’s job. In the forum setting, Lauer was the adversary and he failed in that role.
I believe any other moderator in Lauer’s position would have failed in the same way, especially in a time-sensitive format where each candidate had only 30 minutes of questioning. Safe to say, during his presidential run, Trump has gotten the better of many a seasoned interviewer.
Have you ever played Whack-a-Mole?
Photo | drspikecook.com