A strong majority of Americans want the moderators of the presidential debates to fact-check the candidates, according to two new polls. The will of the voters comes contrary to that of Republican nominee Donald Trump (who journalists note has engaged in an unprecedented campaign of lies), his supporters in the media, and the moderator of the third presidential debate, Fox News’ Chris Wallace.
Media Matters has joined numerous journalists in calling on the presidential debate moderators to fact-check the candidates in real time to ensure that viewers are not left with a “he said-she said” version of the facts. That effort is more important than ever given Trump’s unprecedented willingness to lie.
Trump and his team have pushed back against suggestions that the moderators should call out candidates when they don't tell the truth, with Trump saying, “I think that the candidates should police themselves.” Trump’s allies at Fox News have also claimed “it’s not the job” of moderators to fact-check candidates, with Wallace saying they should not serve as a “truth squad.”
According to a Monmouth University poll released today, “Most voters (60%) believe one of the duties of the moderators is to fact check candidates who state false information during the debates. Only 31% say the moderators should leave it to the candidates to point out any false statements by their opponent.”
Reuters similarly reported today, “In a strong signal that most viewers will also be hoping the debates bring clarity, some 72 percent of respondents said they want to see moderators point out when a candidate says something that is untrue.”
A voter explained to Reuters why this is so important:
“It helps the audience, particularly me, to recognize what’s bull crap and what’s real,” said Harvey Leven, 63, a teacher from Farmington Hills, Michigan. “It’s easy for the candidates to quote a statistic and people accept it.”
According to both polls, Trump supporters were less likely than backers of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton to support a fact-checking moderator.