Clinton campaign: Debate moderators should fact-check Trump

Liz Goodwin
·Senior National Affairs Reporter
Hillary Clinton walks to her campaign plane at Westchester County Airport, in White Plains, N.Y. (Photo: Matt Rourke/AP)
Hillary Clinton walks to her campaign plane at Westchester County Airport, in White Plains, N.Y. (Photo: Matt Rourke/AP)

Hillary Clinton expects debate moderators to fact-check the presidential candidates during Monday’s debate, according to her campaign’s communications director, Jennifer Palmieri.

“She thinks moderators should play a role in making sure that the audience knows the truth,” Palmieri told reporters Wednesday.

“My biggest concern is not a view of any moderator, but just that people [adjust] their questions… to suit the candidate in front of them,” Palmieri said. The campaign is concerned that Clinton will be held to a higher standard than Donald Trump, who, they say, could face less rigorous questions as a result.

“He ends up getting much more one-dimensional, simple questions, and that’s not reflective of somebody who’s in a debate to be the president of the United States,” Palmieri said. “I think the moderators need to ask substantive questions, factual questions and keep them on an even playing field.”

Clinton’s campaign sharply criticized NBC’s Matt Lauer for his performance moderating a “Commander in Chief Forum” earlier this month. The “Today” show host did not challenge Trump’s false assertion that he had always opposed the Iraq War.

Fox News’ Chris Wallace, one of the upcoming debate moderators, also sparked further fact-checking discussion, by saying he believed that it was not his “job to be a truth squad. It’s up to the other person to catch them on that.”

Donald Trump is interviewed by Matt Lauer at NBC's Commander in Chief Forum on Sept. 7. (Evan Vucci/AP)
Donald Trump is interviewed by Matt Lauer at NBC’s “Commander in Chief Forum” on Sept. 7. (Evan Vucci/AP)

Clinton’s focus on the debate’s moderators constitutes a rare spot of overlap with Trump, who has argued that the moderators will be biased against him. (Wallace, NBC’s Lester Holt, ABC’s Martha Raddatz and CNN’s Anderson Cooper will moderate the three debates.)

“Everyone’s saying that [Lauer] was soft on Trump,” Trump said last week on CNBC. “Well, now the new person’s going to try to be really hard on Trump, just to show, you know, the establishment what [they] can do. So I think it’s very unfair, what they’re doing.”

Trump also falsely claimed that Holt, the moderator of the first debate, is a Democrat. Time magazine reported that Holt is a registered Republican.

The Trump and Clinton campaigns have also avoided the traditional tactic of playing down their own candidate’s debate skills in order to lower expectations. Palmieri said Wednesday that she believes Clinton will do well at Monday’s debate and that Trump tends to perform worse in one-on-one showdowns.

“I’m sure she’ll perform well. She always does,” Palmieri said.

She also said that Clinton reviews debate materials every day, and that the Democratic candidate will spend the next couple of days practicing for the debate in Westchester, N.Y. Palmieri further said that Clinton is taking her prep “really seriously,” to prepare herself for different versions of her unpredictable opponent. “We’re preparing for different Trumps that might show up,” she said. (She would not divulge whom the campaign has tapped to play Trump in Clinton’s mock debates — a topic of much speculation in the media.)

Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, meanwhile, mocked Clinton’s debate performance as “lawyerly” and longwinded.

“She’s apologizing, she’s dissembling, she’s deflecting. Donald Trump’s answers are concise and they’re confident, and they’re pointed the way a leader — the way a leader answers questions, frankly,” she said on Fox News radio.