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Most networks won't show on-screen fact-checking during presidential debate

By Allen Cone
Most networks won't show on-screen fact-checking during presidential debate
Photos of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton on a parked news truck Sunday on the eve of the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y., Sept. 26 (UPI) -- Most major network and cable broadcasts that will televise the presidential debate Monday night aren't planning concurrent, on-screen fact-checking.

The debate between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump will be carried on ABC, Bloomberg TV, CBS, NBC, Fox, CNN, Fox News, C-SPAN, CNBC, Fox Business, Telemundo and Univision from 9-10:30 p.m. Eastern time. Also, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will live-stream the debate from Hofstra University along with a number of news organizations and websites.

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As many as 100 million people are expected to watch the debate. That would surpass the 80 million who watched Jimmy Carter debate Ronald Reagan in 1980, the record for a presidential debate.

The audience won't be allowed to respond to statements by Trump or Clinton and there won't be any commercials, so it will be up to the opposing candidate and moderator Lester Holt to react to any comments.

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Nearly all of the major cable or broadcast networks told Politico they would not use any kind of screen fact check or graphics. On-screen fact checks would not be correlated instantly with the answer the candidate is giving. Only NBC did not respond to requests for comment.

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Bloomberg TV will conduct on-screen fact-checking of statements from both candidates.

The Clinton campaign has said it wants fact-checking.

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Trump campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, said on CNN: "I really don't appreciate the campaigns thinking it is the job of the media to go and be these virtual fact-checkers."

Trump, speaking to Fox News, said moderators should let the candidates challenge each other on the facts, rather than interrupt the debate to point out inaccuracies.

"I mean, if you're debating somebody and if she makes a mistake or I make a mistake ... we'll take each other on," he added. "But I certainly don't think you want Candy Crowley again."

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Trump was referring to Crowley, a CNN reporter who moderated a 2012 debate between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Crowley corrected Romney during the debate when he accused Obama of failing to label the killing of four Americans in Benghazi as a terrorist attack. She later admitted that Romney had been correct.

"I really don't think you want that," Trump said. "That was a very pivotal moment in that debate. And it really threw the debate off and it was unfair. No, I think you have to have somebody that's just -- let them argue it out."

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Clinton press secretary Brian Fallon said Sunday on CNN that if moderators "close their ears to Donald Trump's lies, it will extend an unfair bias to Donald Trump. It will be the equivalent of giving him more time to speak."

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Janet Brown, executive director of the Commission on Presidential Debates, told CNN: "I don't think it's a good idea to get the moderator into essentially serving as the Encyclopedia Britannica."

And she said to consider this: "I'm not sure, what is the big fact, and what is a little fact?" She noted: "Does your source about the unemployment rate agree with my source?"

Former CBS News anchor and debate moderator Bob Schieffer said this debate is unique.

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"These are two of the most difficult people in American politics to interview for very different reasons," Schieffer told Politico. "So I think a moderators [of the three scheduled debates] are going to have their hands full. But I think all of them are veteran journalists and they will have done their homework by the time they get to the debate and they'll do fine."

Jim Lehrer, the former PBS Newshour anchor who moderated 12 presidential debates, would strongly prefer to have the candidates fact-check each other rather than the moderator to interject.

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"Usually the way you do that with simply the candidate there, you say 'would you agree with that, is that how you see it?' " Lehrer said to Policito. "In debates I tried to not do that [fact check] because I didn't want to get in the way."

Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, who will moderate the third and final presidential debate, said "it's not my job to be a truth squad."

Politico checked every statement by Clinton and Trump for a week and concluded that "Trump's mishandling of facts and propensity for exaggeration so greatly exceed Clinton's as to make the comparison almost ludicrous."

For example, Trump said last week that Holt is a Democrat, although Holt is a registered Republican.

Holt has not commented on the situation.

Although most of the networks won't instantaneously fact check, other organizations plan to do it.

PolitiFact will have 18 fact-checkers handling the debate and will be posting results on its Twitter feed.

It says it has a database of nearly 13,000 fact-checked claims.

"These debates haven't caught up with 21st century technology yet," Angie Drobnic Holan, editor of PolitiFact.com, told the San Francisco Chronicle, which also plans to fact check "The format has stayed the same. These are the most important events of the American election season. A lot of people base their decision on who to vote for. But there is some hesitation by the media to disrupt this tradition."

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The networks will be providing post-debate analysis and the campaigns will be in the "spin room."

Newt Gingrich tweeted, "How weak is Clinton that her campaign wants moderators to fact check Trump? Isn't that her job? Are they that afraid of Trump?"

And expect Trump himself to post on Twitter after the debate.

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