PolitiFact is calling out Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz for her claim that her party’s presidential debate schedule was designed to “maximize the opportunity for voters to see our candidates.”
The fact-checking website on Wednesday rated Wasserman Schultz’s statements “false,” calling her defenses “very disingenuous.”
PolitiFact credited the DNC for scheduling debates with TV networks, so those without cable could watch, but said the Democrats could have scheduled them on weekdays if they wanted to increase viewership.
The website also quoted several professors of political science and communications slamming the DNC’s debate schedule.
"By the time voting starts in Iowa, potential voters will have seen about 40 percent less of Democratic candidates on the debate stage than their Republican counterparts," Aaron Kall, the University of Michigan’s director of debate, told PolitiFact.
"I think we can safely say that weekend time slots are not the key to maximizing the viewing audience," John Schroeder at Northeastern University added.
Wasserman Schultz has faced criticism from many — including some within her own party — for a limited schedule of presidential debates, several of which have taken place on weekends.
Some accuse her of trying to limit voters' exposure to the candidates and, in turn, give Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton an advantage.
"That’s ridiculous," Wasserman Schultz said earlier this month, in response to questions about the schedule. "I don’t know how many times I have to say it."
In defense of her statements, DNC spokesman Sean Bartlett noted that Republicans need more debates because they have many more presidential candidates than do Democrats this year.
He added that only three of the Democratic debates in 2008 topped the Democrats' lowest-rated debate this cycle in television ratings.
Wasserman Shultz said the first Democratic debate of this cycle was more highly viewed than at least two of the Republican debates.
"And our last debate, compared to the Republican last debate, was just a little bit less than theirs," she told CNN's Brian Stelter on Jan. 17 before the most recent Democratic debate, held the Sunday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
The four Democratic debates have yielded a cumulative viewership of about 42.5 million, and the six Republican debates have had a cumulative viewership of about 103.7 million, PolitiFact reported, according to Nielsen ratings of same-day viewership.
All of the Republican debates so far have been held on weekdays. The two highest Republican debates drew between 23 and 24 million viewers each.