This never-ending presidential election cycle will be heating up as we now enter debate season. The first presidential debate will air on Monday, Sept. 26, and we can expect the candidates to discuss many of the recent events that have faced the nation, as well as the future of the country. But as we enter this critical period in preparation for Americans to cast their ballots at the polls, it is increasingly important that the presidential debate moderators fact check Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump if we want to take this election seriously.
Fact checking is a major step in good journalism. It's the part where we ensure that the information we are providing is factual so that our readers and viewers can feel empowered and know that they have the most accurate information at their disposal. Accurate reporting of information is the key to a free-thinking society, which is why it is crucial that NBC Nightly News Anchor Lester Holt, who will moderate the first debate fact checks what the candidates are saying. Obviously, it's equally important for those who follow in upcoming debates to do the same.
In some ways, researching and verifying facts are both the simplest and most important part of the reporting process, and major networks should have been doing so over the course of the last year. Rather than allowing Trump to simply make ostentatious claims about President Obama and Clinton "co-founding ISIS," for instance, more networks should have called the claim false before simply reporting on it. There is too much at stake to allow candidates to say what's on their mind without also verifying that the information they are providing is accurate, especially on a debate stage in one of the most important presidential elections.
Lucas Graves, who is a journalism professor at the University of Wisconsin, said, "It’s difficult to dislodge a falsehood once it’s taken hold. If you can debunk the claim the moment it’s uttered, that’s much better," according to the Poynter Institute. And it's true. Publishing or disseminating false information during a debate without debunking the claim is irresponsible and hard to undo.
Over the course of this cycle, Politifact has fact checked at least 258 of Trump's statements, and has categorized a majority of his statements (218) as "Half True," "Mostly False," "False," and "Pants on Fire" — according to their in-house scale. As for Clinton, they have checked at least 255 of her statements, and there were also 218 claims scaled between "Half True" and "Pants on Fire."
Voters — and at this point, particularly those who are undecided — need accurate information to determine who deserves their vote this year, whether it's Trump, Clinton, or a third-party candidate. Debate moderators hold an important position moving forward and they must call out the false claims of both candidates for their viewers' sake.