Fact checking Trump, not Clinton, exposes media bias
A new big thing in some parts of cable news these days involves on-the-spot fact-checking of one presidential candidate through the use of what’s called lower-thirds, or chyrons (the big words serving as headlines that perpetually populate a certain portion of the bottom of the screen).
CNN started doing fact-checking-on-the-fly back in June with Donald Trump to the standing ovation of most in the media outside the network. And at first glance, it could be a novel approach if executed correctly (we’ll explore the “if” part shortly).
Imitation is the best form of flattery, so since CNN started instantaneous fact-checking, MSNBC has followed suit, although to a lesser extent.
Example: Take Trump’s inelegant comment that “Obama is the founder of ISIS.”
CNN chyron when reporting on said comment:
Trump calls Obama the founder of ISIS (he’s not)
Team Trump and surrogates — as they often need to after the fact — explain its true meaning this way (paraphrasing): If the president hadn’t pulled all troops from Iraq and had a coherent strategy in regards to Syria, a power vacuum wouldn’t have been created that has since been filled by ISIS.
Did ISIS exist before the troop withdrawal? Yes, albeit in a much smaller, contained form.
Did it expand and explode into what it is today while U.S. troops were there? No.
Just look at Obama’s comments published in a January 2014 issue of the New Yorker on the organization as being a “JV team” when compared to al Qaeda. Since 2014, it has expanded to 28 countries.
Is Obama and his former secretary of State founders of ISIS? Of course not.
Were they both complicit via policy decisions in its huge expansion in the region and beyond? Yes.
So when CNN writes on screen that Obama is not the founder of ISIS, the chyron is correct. But to end the story there in not exploring the actual issue (massive ISIS expansion) is either disingenuous, lazy, biased or all of the above.
Another question: Have fact-checking chyrons been applied when Trump’s opponent in Hillary Clinton has said something not accurate?
Nope. Not even once.
Some would argue that Trump deserves it because of controversial rhetoric or falsehoods around X, Y, Z. Sorry, that’s weak sauce. Because when looking at honesty/trustworthy numbers, it’s Clinton who — in the eyes of the public — has more issues in that department.
A CNN poll in late July shows 68 percent of Americans don’t trust Clinton, while 30 percent do. Trump’s number is 13 points higher at 43 percent.
So if the argument is that Clinton doesn’t need to be fact-checked, good luck winning that one at your local debate club.
Example: On July 31 in an interview with Fox’s Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, Clinton said this about her answers to FBI Director Comey in regards to explanation around her State Department emails and the use of a private server in her home that ultimately led to a long investigation by the department:
“Director Comey said that my answers were truthful and what I’ve said is consistent with what I have told the American people, that there were decisions discussed and made to classify retroactively certain of the emails,” she explained.
The Washington Post fact checker, Glenn Kessler, gave that statement four “Pinocchios,” which happens to be its worst rating for truthfulness.
But on CNN, the fact-checking chyrons now used so often with Trump were absent when replaying the comments by Clinton to Wallace in the following days (when the story actually got attention).
The worst kind of bias is the bias of omission.
You want a textbook example?
Just look at what CNN is doing with its use of fact-checking chyrons.
For one candidate, it’s open-season.
— Sherisse Pham (@Sherisse) August 12, 2016
For another, nothing to see here.
Trust in media is at an all-time low.
When even the fact-checking process needs to be fact-checked…
Concha is a media reporter for The Hill.
The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.