Published 7:36 PM EDT Sep 3, 2020
The claim: Biden said a live fact-checker will be present at the debates
As the Biden and Trump campaigns enter the final leg of the 2020 presidential race, America is remembering highs and lows of the 2016 election cycle. And with that, “fact checking” and “fake news” are more buzz-worthy topics than ever before.
However, some online are misinterpreting Joe Biden’s recent comments on the topics to mean an official fact-checker will be covering the presidential debates.
“Trump is screwed Biden just announced on MSNBC that there will be a live fact checker present at the debates,” Jim Bozarth posted on Facebook on Aug. 28.
Bozarth has not returned USA TODAY’s request for comment.
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A Biden quote taken out of context
On Aug. 27, Biden said in a video interview with MSNBC that he plans to serve as a fact-checker while debating President Donald Trump.
“As long as the commission continues down the straight and narrow, as they have, I’m gonna debate him,” he said. “I’m gonna be a fact-checker on the floor while I’m debating him.”
The statement came after anchor Andrea Mitchell asked Biden for his reaction to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying he should not debate Trump.
“I wouldn’t legitimize a conversation with him, nor a debate in terms of the presidency of the United States,” she said.
Biden pointed to the false information Trump pushed during the Republican National Convention and journalists’ efforts to debunk it to stress the necessity of fact-checking.
“The debates are going to take place. (It’s) been recommended to me by a number of very competent people that know their way around, including leading Republicans, that I shouldn’t debate Trump unless there’s a fact-checker on the ground,” Biden told MSNBC. “But look, I think everyone knows this man has a somewhat pathological tendency not to tell the truth.”
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Fact-checkers do cover debates
Since Trump first took the presidential debate stage in 2016, media experts have pondered the role fact-checkers should have in debates. That year, some independent organizations fact-checked the debates live, while others published fact-checks the following day.
During the first debate, Hillary Clinton’s campaign turned its own website into a live fact-check platform called “Literally Trump.” Within an hour of the announcement, the site broke its traffic record and received thousands of shares on social media.
The debate schedule is set with no official fact-checker
On Sept. 2, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced moderators for this year’s three presidential debates and vice presidential debate. The first presidential debate will be hosted by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace on Sept. 29. USA TODAY’S Susan Page will moderate the vice presidential debate on Oct. 7 and two more presidential debates will follow in the month of October.
In early August, Trump requested the commission add a fourth debate focused on early voting for early September. His request was denied.
The commission has not announced that there will be a live fact-checker at the events.
The Commission on Presidential Debates has yet to return USA TODAY’s request for comment.
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Our ruling: Missing context
We rate the claim that former Vice President Joe Biden said a live fact-checker will be present at the debates as MISSING CONTEXT. In the interview with MSNBC, Biden discussed his plans to fact-check Trump himself on the debate floor and expectations that the press will do the same. The Commission on Presidential Debates has not announced any plans to have a live fact-checker present at the debates.
Our fact-check sources:
- Jim Bozarth’s Aug. 28 Facebook Post
- YouTube, MSNBC, Aug. 27, “Joe Biden Reacts To Pelosi’s Comments On Debating With Trump | Andrea Mitchell | MSNBC”
- USA TODAY, Aug. 27, “Pelosi: ‘I don’t think there should be any debates’ between Biden and Trump”
- CNN, Aug. 25, “Fact check: First night of the Republican National Convention features more dishonesty than four nights of DNC”
- Poynter, Sept. 2, “Here’s how America’s fact-checkers would moderate presidential debates”
- PolitiFact, Sept. 26, 2016, “Fact-checking the first Trump, Clinton presidential debate”
- Wired, Sept. 26, 2016, “We Live Fact-Check the First Presidential Debate”
- FactCheck.org, Sep. 27, 2016, “FactChecking the First Debate”
- NPR, Sept. 27, 2016, “Fact Check: First Presidential Debate”
- Wired, Sept. 27, 2016, “Millions of People Checked Out Clinton’s Debate Fact-Check Site”
- The Commission on Presidential Debates, Sep. 2, “CPD Announces 2020 Debate Moderators”
- USA TODAY, Aug. 6, “Panel rejects Donald Trump’s request to add a fourth debate with Joe Biden”
- USA TODAY, Sept. 2, “Election 2020: Chris Wallace, Susan Page among moderators for presidential and vice presidential debates”
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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.