Neither Fox News Nor Donald Trump Wants Debate Moderators To Fact-Check Candidates

Fox figures are supporting fellow Fox host and debate moderator Chris Wallace and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s argument that moderators should not fact-check candidates during the presidential debates, suggesting that “it’s not the job” of moderators and that it would be “crazy” to think otherwise. Yet fact-checking services have found that 70 percent of Trump’s claims are “mostly false,” “false,” or “pants on fire” lies.

Clinton And Trump To Face Off In Presidential Debates

NBC News: “Republican Donald Trump And Democrat Hillary Clinton Will Face Off For The First Time In The First Of Three Scheduled Presidential Debates.” Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton will face off for the first presidential debate on September 26, in what is expected to be “one of the most watched political programs” of the election. NBC anchor Lester Holt will moderate. ABC’s Martha Raddatz and CNN’s Anderson Cooper will moderate the second presidential debate, and Fox News’ Chris Wallace will moderate the third. [NBC News, 9/20/16]

PolitiFact Has Found That 70 Percent Of Trump’s Assertions Are “Mostly False,” “False,” Or “Pants On Fire” Lies. According to fact-checking service PolitiFact, 70 percent of  Trump’s claims are “mostly false,” “false,” or “pants on fire” lies. Moreover, Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler wrote that because Trump “never takes anything back — and often repeats the same false claims — voters are likely to hear these time and again during the campaign season.” [PolitiFact, accessed 9/21/16; The Washington Post, 3/22/16]

Fox Debate Moderator Chris Wallace Says He Will Not Fact-Check Candidates

Debate Moderator And Fox Host Chris Wallace: Presidential Debate Moderators Should Not Be A “Truth Squad.” Fox host Chris Wallace, who is moderating the final presidential debate, said that “it’s not [his] role” as a debate moderator to be a “truth squad.” Wallace added that, as a moderator, he is “a conduit to ask the questions” and will not be “truth squading.” From the September 4 edition of Fox News’ MediaBuzz:

HOWARD KURTZ (HOST): Now, when you're on that big stage in Las Vegas, it's not like hosting a Sunday show, correct?

CHRIS WALLACE: No, it's very different, and I'm very mindful of that. It isn't coming up with a killer question, not coming up with the great follow-up. I see myself as a conduit to ask the questions and basically to get the two candidates, or as I say, if one of the other people is on the stage as well, one of the third party candidates, but to get the candidates to engage. I view it as kind of being a referee in a heavyweight championship fight. If it -- if it succeeds when it's over, people will say, “You did a great job. I don't even remember you ever even being on the stage.”

KURTZ: Well I understand that and I think it's the right approach, not making it about you; on the other hand, there is a lot on your shoulders, both in terms of the question selection, but also as they go at it, let’s say Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, what do you do if they make assertions that you know to be untrue?

WALLACE: That's not my job. 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. I certainly am going to try to maintain some reasonable semblance of equal time. If one of them is filibustering, I'm going to try to break in respectfully and give the other person a chance to talk. But I want it to be about them -- I want it to be as much of a debate, people often talk that it’s simultaneous news conferences.

KURTZ: Right.

WALLACE: I want it to be as much of a debate as possible. Frankly, with these two and the way -- as Keith Jackson used to say about football rivals, these two just plain don't like each other. I suspect I'm not going to have any problem getting them to engage with each other, but I don't view my role as truth squading, I think that’s a step too far. And if people want to do it after the debate, fine, it’s not my role. [Fox News, MediaBuzz, 9/4/16]

Trump Supports Wallace’s Plan Not To Fact-Check

Trump: “I Think That The Candidates Should Police Themselves.” Asked about Wallace’s pledge that he would not be a “truth squad,” Trump said he could “understand [Wallace] saying that” and that “I think that the candidates should police themselves.” From the September 8 edition of RT America's Politicking:

LARRY KING (HOST): Chris Wallace of Fox News is going to moderate the final debate. He says he doesn't believe it's his job to be the truth squad, that it's up to the candidates to catch each other. Do you think the moderator should have facts at hands and correct the guest?

DONALD TRUMP: Well, I don't know. I can tell you, Chris Wallace is a professional. He's very, very good at what he does. And you know, I can understand him saying that, but yeah, I think -- I think that the candidates should police themselves. [RT America, Politicking, 9/8/16]

Fox Figures Echo Trump And Wallace, Urge Debate Moderators Not To Fact-Check Candidates’ Claims

Fox Media Critic Howard Kurtz: “It’s Not The Job” Of Debate Moderators Or Journalists To Fact-Check Candidates. Fox media critic and host Howard Kurtz asserted that fact-checking during a debate is “not the job of the moderator” and is “not the job of journalists.” Kurtz concluded that moderators and journalists “should be aggressive towards both sides.” From the September 19 edition of Fox News’ On the Record With Brit Hume:

HOWARD KURTZ: Donald Trump made this argument to me last week. “Oh all the moderators are going to be unfair because they’re going to  fear a [Matt] Lauer-like criticism from their buddies in the media,” but the thing is, Brit, that unlike in a Sunday morning interview when it is the job of the interviewer to follow up, to call out.


In a general election debate where the two candidates are supposed to go after each other, you don't want to be as a moderator debating the candidate yourself. And a lot of this is driven by the media assumption Trump’s  going to get up there and lie. Hillary may shave the truth, but Trump’s really the liar here. And the moderators have to step out of their role and to expose him. Well, that's not the job of the moderator and that's not the job of journalists to expose the candidate. We should be aggressive toward both sides. A lot of people in our business -- and I’ve never seen this before in a campaign -- now feel like it's OK, it's even our duty to tilt one way in this campaign. [Fox News, On the Record With Brit Hume, 9/19/16]

Fox’s Steve Doocy: “Don’t Put” Fact-Checking On The Moderator’s “Shoulders” Because “That’s Just Crazy.” Fox host Steve Doocy argued that it would be “crazy” for a debate moderator to “correct the record,” adding, “If Clinton says something and Lester Holt knows that that's a fib, just say, ‘Mr. Trump, what do you say about that?’” From the September 26 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): Rather than correct the record, all the moderator’s got to do is, if Clinton says something and Lester Holt knows that that's a fib, just say, “Mr. Trump, what do you say about that? Do you think that's correct?” and then give him the chance. Don't put it on Lester Holt's shoulders. Come on, that's crazy. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/26/16]

Fox’s Ainsley Earhardt: “Why Would It Ever Be The Job Of The Moderator To” Fact-Check? Fox host Ainsley Earhardt stated that she does not “want to hear from the moderator” and asked, “Why would it ever be the job of the moderator to make sure” candidates are telling the truth? From the September 26 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:

AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): Why would it ever be the job of the moderator to make sure everything -- I don't want to hear from the moderator. I want to hear how the – we’re there to watch the candidates. We want to hear how they react. It's up to them to know the facts and to know when they're being lied to. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/26/16]

Fox’s John Bolton: “I Think it Ought To Be A Real Debate Between The Candidates.” Fox contributor John Bolton asserted that “a real debate” is “between the candidates,” arguing that “we ought to go back to” a format like “the Lincoln-Douglas debates” in which there was no moderator. From the September 20 edition of Fox News’ Outnumbered:

MEGHAN MCCAIN (CO-HOST): I want to say something that's a little politically incorrect, but one one of the things I'm actually curious about is how healthy Hillary Clinton is going to look, if she's going to get into a coughing fit, if she's going to look tired. I actually think this will be something that's really important and pivotal. Ambassador Bolton, you're shaking your head. Do you agree with me?

JOHN BOLTON: No, I think that's right. I have to say, I don't like these debates at all. I don't like the debates that occurred in the primary season.

FAULKNER: You don’t like the debates?

MCCAIN: You can watch it with me. I make it fun.

BOLTON: I haven't liked it for about 50 years. I think it ought to be a real debate between the candidates. I think Trump is onto something here.

SANDRA SMITH (CO-HOST): Moderators out?

BOLTON: Let me ask you a key question. Who moderated the Lincoln-Douglas debates? Nobody. There was a time keeper. That's all there was, and that's what we ought to go back to. [Fox News, Outnumbered, 9/20/16]