Debate Guide

Tags ››› Debate Guide
  • Final Scorecard: Climate Change Absent From Debates In Most Key Senate And Governors’ Races 

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    In late September, we launched a real-time scorecard to keep tabs on how often debate moderators and panelists in the presidential election and 18 tightly contested Senate and governors’ races were asking the candidates about climate change. We’ve been constantly updating the scorecard ever since, publishing transcript and video/audio whenever climate questions were asked. Check out our completed scorecard here.

    The November 4 Senate debate in Illinois was the last of the 55 debates we examined, and the final results are not pretty for those of us concerned about climate change. Here are the key takeaways from our scorecard of climate change questions in presidential, Senate, and governors’ debates:

    • Just 12 of the 55 debates held in these key races included questions about climate change (22 percent). If you exclude the three presidential debates and the vice-presidential debate, where the lack of climate questions was well-chronicled, the portion of debates with climate questions inches up to 24 percent.

    • Broken down by individual race, only eight of the 19 contests featured at least one debate question about climate change (42 percent). In addition to the presidential campaign, debate moderators completely ignored climate change in the following races: Arizona Senate, Indiana Governor, Missouri Senate, Missouri Governor, Montana Governor, Nevada Senate, New Hampshire Governor, North Carolina Senate, North Carolina Governor, and West Virginia Governor. Each of these states face serious climate-related challenges, some of which I detailed here.

    • Only races in two New England states -- Vermont and New Hampshire -- featured more than one debate with a climate question. The Vermont Governor race had four debates with questions about climate change, and the New Hampshire Senate race had two.

    • In six of the 12 debates with climate questions, the climate questions were asked because voters spoke up and asked them. The climate change questions generated by voters included a Twitter question in Wisconsin, two Facebook questions in Vermont, an audience question in Ohio, a question from the Open Debate Coalition website in New Hampshire, and a question in Indiana submitted to the Indiana Debate Commission using an online form.

  • Climate Silence Witnessed At Presidential Debates Extends To Key Battleground States

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

    There were roughly 190 questions (including follow-ups) asked to the candidates during the presidential and vice presidential debates this year, and not one of them was about climate change. This stunning media failure has rightly drawn the attention of journalists, environmental groups, and at least one U.S. senator.

    But it’s also important to recognize that the climate silence we have witnessed on the national stage is not unique to the presidential election. Media Mattersdebate scorecard is tracking climate change questions in 18 of the most closely contested Senate and governors’ races across the country, and the results so far are troubling. We’ve found that just eight of the 37 debates held in these races through October 20 included questions about climate change. That's 22 percent.

    Climate change was not addressed in the Senate debate or any of the three governors’ debates in North Carolina, a state that was recently devastated by Hurricane Matthew, which featured record-breaking rainfall and flooding that scientists have linked to global warming. It was also ignored in the Senate debate in Arizona, which was recently identified as the western state that is most at risk from increased wildfires as a result of climate change, and in both governors’ debates in West Virginia, which suffered through flooding over the summer that was made worse by global warming.

    There have also been zero climate change questions in Senate or governors’ debates in Missouri, Montana, and Nevada, which are all among the states that are least prepared to deal with emerging climate-related threats, according to a report card produced by Climate Central and ICF International.

    The eight debates that have included climate change questions occurred in seven states: Florida (Senate), Indiana (Senate), New Hampshire (Senate), Ohio (Senate), Pennsylvania (Senate), Wisconsin (Senate), and Vermont (in two debates for governor).

    In more than half of these states, the climate questions were asked because voters spoke up and requested them. In Wisconsin, the climate question was submitted by a citizen via Twitter. In Vermont, the moderator asked a climate question submitted by a voter on Facebook. In Ohio, an audience member asked the climate question. And in Indiana, the climate question, while flawed, was submitted by a voter to the Indiana Debate Commission.

    The lesson from both the presidential debates and these Senate and governors’ debates is clear: If voters want to hear about climate change, they’ll need to continue to press moderators to ask about it and continue to take advantage of opportunities to make their voices heard.

  • What Supreme Court Experts Want You To Know Before The Last Presidential Debate

    ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON & PAM VOGEL

    The Supreme Court will be one of the topics discussed at the final presidential debate of this election, moderated by Fox News anchor Chris Wallace on October 19. Supreme Court reporters and legal experts have been explaining the significance of the court throughout the election season, because of the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February and the implications for the ideological direction of the court stemming from the election of a new president.

  • This Is How Moderators Can Debunk Trump's Excuses For His Iraq War Support

    ››› ››› NINA MAST

    Donald Trump has attempted, and media have often allowed him, to advance the false claim that he opposed the Iraq War from the beginning, but evidence Trump regularly cites as proof of his opposition occurred after the war’s authorization and after the war had already begun. Ahead of the first presidential debate, moderators should be aware of his chronologically impossible excuses and be prepared to debunk them, such as his citing of a 2004 Esquire interview where he opposed the war, claiming he said the war was “a mess” at a 2003 party, claiming he expressed some concern in a January 2003 Fox interview, and his excuse that he “was not a politician” when he made his original remarks supporting the war.

  • Myths & Facts: A Debate Guide To Donald Trump’s Most Common Lies About The Economy

    ››› ››› ALEX MORASH

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s penchant for promoting right-wing media myths and other misleading claims presents a unique challenge heading into the first presidential debate of the general election. If the September 26 debate is anything like the opening debates of 2008 and 2012, it will focus heavily on issues relating to the American economy, and both moderator and audience should be prepared for a torrent of misinformation from the GOP standard-bearer.

  • What The Media Needs To Know About Donald Trump’s Debate Prep Team

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's inner circle is filled with conspiracy theorists and disreputable political operatives. According to reports, many of these same people have been taking the lead in preparing him for Monday's first presidential debate at Hofstra University.

    (Note: Some of these bios were previously included in a round-up of Trump’s kitchen cabinet).

    Roger Ailes

    Ailes

    Role In Debate Prep

    Roger Ailes is the founder and former chairman and CEO of Fox News and the Fox Television Stations Group. He has reportedly been an influential part of Trump’s debate preparation, advising the candidate on how to “get his message out in a smart, cogent way while also maintaining his air of authenticity,” according to CNNMoney, and helping “Trump come up with memorable one-liners that will stay in voters' minds, drive headlines, and perhaps even turn the tide in Trump's favor.”

    What You Need To Know

    Ailes was forced out at Fox News after former anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit against him alleging sexual harassment and retaliation. Other women also came forward, alleging a decades-long pattern of harassment by Ailes. (Carlson’s suit was settled for a reported $20 million, and Fox News’ parent company issued a public apology to Carlson, saying she was not “treated with the respect and dignity that she and all of our colleagues deserve.”) . Even though Ailes was publicly disgraced, Trump has repeatedly expressed support for him..

    The network Ailes created has for years functioned as the communications arm of the Republican Party, disguised as a “news” network. Fox was instrumental in the rise and eventual triumph of Trump in the 2016 Republican primaries, featuring him far more than any other candidate, which translated into millions of dollars worth of free exposure.

    At Fox, Ailes pushed programming with themes of misogyny, racism, and Islamophobia. Ailes was once an operative for President Richard Nixon, and he used race-baiting in his work for Nixon as well.

    Corey Lewandowski

    Lewandowski

    Role In Debate Prep

    Former Trump campaign manager and current CNN contributor Corey Lewandowski is involved in “preparing Donald Trump for the debates,” according to the conservative site Heat Street.

    What You Need To Know

    While he was in charge of Trump’s campaign, Lewandowski had hostile interactions with the press corps covering Trump. He was caught on video grabbing Michelle Fields, then a reporter for Breitbart News. Florida prosecutors said they believed there was probable cause to arrest Lewandowski, but decided against prosecuting him.

    In a separate incident, Lewandowski was seen grabbing a protester “by the collar,” and “yanking him backwards.” When asked about it, Trump said, “I give him credit for having spirit.”

    Lewandowski continues to receive what are described as “severance” payments from the Trump campaign while commenting on the election in a paid position for CNN. On air he has been a reliable Trump defender, promoting the racist birther conspiracy theory, smearing journalists who report on the nominee, and lying about Trump’s history of using undocumented workers.

    Stephen Bannon

    Bannon

    Role In Debate Prep

    Stephen Bannon is the chairman of Breitbart News but is currently on leave to serve as the chief executive of the Trump campaign. The Washington Post reported that he is part of the unofficial Trump debate team that met with the candidate at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, NJ, in August.

    What You Need To Know

    Under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart News has recently made a “noticeable shift toward embracing ideas on the extremist fringe of the conservative right. Racist ideas. Anti-Muslim and anti-Immigrant ideas,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

    Several anonymous Breitbart staffers alleged, according to BuzzFeed, that “the company’s top management was allowing Trump to turn Breitbart into his own fan website” and claimed the candidate paid the site in exchange for favorable coverage. (Bannon denied the allegation.)

    After news surfaced that Trump’s then-campaign manager had allegedly manhandled Michelle Fields, who was working at the time as a Breitbart reporter, Bannon sided with the campaign over his employee, leading to the defection of several staffers.

    Several former Bannon employees have spoken out about his hiring by the campaign. Former Breitbart editor-at-large Ben Shapiro called Bannon a “legitimately sinister figure” who has led Breitbart News to embrace the “white supremacist alt-right.” Former Breitbart News spokesperson Kurt Bardella told Media Matters that Bannon is a “pathological liar” whose hiring signals a “dangerous" shift by the campaign.

    Rudy Giuliani

    Giuliani

    Role In Debate Prep

    Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani has served as a campaign surrogate for the Trump campaign and was identified as a “longtime friend” of the candidate who is involved in debate preparations.

    What You Need To Know

    Giuliani has a long history of making anti-Muslim statements. He argued in favor of Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) comment that one way to fight terrorism is to “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods,” said sexual assault in Germany proved that “these [Syrian] refugees are inherently a problem,” and praised Rep. Peter King (R-NY) for holding anti-Muslim hearings in Congress.

    Speaking before Trump at a campaign rally, Giuliani said, “Under those eight years before Obama came along, we didn’t have any successful radical Islamic terrorist attack in the United States,” omitting the 9/11 attacks. PolitiFact rated this claim “false.”

    Laura Ingraham

    Ingraham

    Role In Debate Prep

    Radio host Laura Ingraham has been a staunch supporter of Trump’s candidacy and has praised his anti-immigrant rhetoric. Ingraham spoke at the Republican National Convention and urged Trump’s former rivals to “honor your pledge” and “support Donald Trump now.” She has been described as one of Trump’s “informal band of counselors” who are helping him to “test out zingers” ahead of the debate.

    What You Need To Know

    Ingraham has often used her show to demonize and attack immigrants. Ingraham said Mexicans “have come here to murder and rape our people,” called the American children of undocumented immigrants “anchor fetuses,” and suggested that deported immigrants attempting to re-enter the country should be “shot.”

    Chris Christie

    Christie

    Role In Debate Prep

    New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie endorsed Trump after he dropped out of the campaign and has served as a leading surrogate for the candidate. He is the head of Trump’s transition team and is reportedly helping with debate preparations.

    What You Need To Know

    Christie has become infamous for his public arguments with voters and other figures. He told a voter who criticized them that he was “a real big shot shooting your mouth off,” called a reporter “a complete idiot,” and told a resident asking about stalled rebuilding efforts after Superstorm Sandy to “sit down and shut up.”

    Another mark against Christie has been the Bridgegate scandal, in which his subordinates conspired to block traffic on the George Washington Bridge as payback for political slights against the governor.

    David Bossie

    Bossie

    Role In Debate Prep

    Conservative activist David Bossie has taken a leave of absence from his job as president of the advocacy group Citizens United to be Trump’s deputy campaign manager. He is reportedly part of the debate preparation team.

    What You Need To Know

    In 1992, then-President George H.W. Bush condemned Bossie and Citizens United for using what he called “filthy campaign tactics” against the Clintons during the 1992 presidential campaign. Following President Clinton’s election, Bossie used his role as Citizens United’s political director to operate “an information factory” that produced “a steady stream of tips, tidbits, documents, factoids, suspicions, and story ideas for the nation's press and for Republicans on Capitol Hill,” according to Columbia Journalism Review. Bossie resigned from his position as an investigator for the House Government and Reform Committee after it was revealed that he played a role in releasing selectively edited transcripts in order to smear Hillary Clinton.

    Bossie has been president of Citizens United since 2000. The group’s film Hillary: The Movie prompted the Supreme Court case Citizens United v. FEC, which resulted in the 5-4 decision that has led to nearly unlimited campaign spending in elections. Citizens United has pushed for the release of Hillary Clinton’s communications from the State Department when she was secretary of state, and the organization is a party in several lawsuits demanding Clinton-related materials from the agency. In the course of making those requests, Citizens United has often insinuated -- without evidence -- that wrongdoing took place.

    Roger Stone

    Roger Stone

    Role In Debate Prep

    Republican dirty trickster Roger Stone is a longtime Trump ally. Stone worked on Trump’s campaign until August of 2015, continues to serve as a prominent advocate for Trump’s candidacy, and regularly speaks with Trump. Stone advised Trump on debate negotiations and helped Trump with debate prep during the primaries.

    What You Need To Know

    In addition to his political dirty tricks, Stone has an extensive history of making violent, racist, and sexist comments. He started an anti-Hillary Clinton group in 2008 with the acronym “C.U.N.T.” and has called for her to be executed. He called cable news commentators a “stupid negro” and “Mandingo,” and he promotes conspiracy theories about the Clinton and Bush families murdering dozens of people. His next book is about how the Clintons purportedly murdered JFK Jr. “because he was in the way.”

    Stone’s racist and sexist tweets resulted in him being banned from appearing on CNN and MSNBC.

    While advocating for Trump, Stone has peddled several outlandish conspiracy theories. He accused the Clintons of murdering several more people, argued that the 2016 election will be “rigged” via the manipulation of voting machines, and alleged that a top Clinton campaign aide was connected to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Stone also attacked the family of Capt. Humayun Khan, who was killed in Iraq in 2004.

    Kellyanne Conway

    Conway

    Role In Debate Prep

    Kellyanne Conway served as a senior adviser and pollster for the Trump campaign, and she is currently serving as the campaign manager. Conway has been part of the core team preparing Trump for the debate.

    What You Need To Know

    Conway has long been involved in conservative politics, mostly as a pollster working with conservative groups including the NRA and Family Research Council and Republican candidates including Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann.

    Conway once said that people “don’t want their kids looking at a cartoon with a bunch of lesbian mothers” and suggested the representation of same-sex parents in children’s programming was a “corrupting” influence. She also once argued that “political correctness” could create a situation where there were “air traffic controllers who don’t speak great English,” leading to “two planes crashing in the sky.”

    She also argued that “revulsion towards men” is “part and parcel of the feminist movement” and that “baby girls [are] being killed just because they’re girls” in America.

    Michael Flynn

    Flynn

    Role In Debate Prep

    Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, is a Trump adviser and campaign surrogate. Flynn is part of the national security team preparing Trump for the debate.

    What You Need To Know

    Flynn left his position at the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014 after clashing with senior officials. He has complained that “‘political correctness’ has prevented the U.S. from confronting violent extremism, which he sees as a ‘cancerous idea that exists inside of the Islamic religion.’” In his book The Field of Flight, Flynn accuses the U.S. government of concealing “the actions of terrorists like bin Laden and groups like ISIS, and the role of Iran in the rise of radical Islam.”

    Flynn has publicly supported Trump’s idea that the families of terrorist suspects should be killed, and he also backs Trump’s proposal for a ban on Muslim travel to the United States. Flynn has written that “fear of Muslims is RATIONAL.”

    In 2015, Flynn flew to Moscow and was filmed having a formal dinner with Vladimir Putin. The Daily Beast reported that “Pentagon brass were taken by surprise that he didn’t notify the department.”

    Flynn was paid by the state-funded Russian television network RT for his appearance at the network’s anniversary gala.

    Flynn spoke on Trump’s behalf at the Republican National Convention, saying that “war is not about bathrooms,” a reference to controversy over anti-transgender laws. He also retweeted an anti-Semitic pro-Trump message that read in part, “Not anymore, Jews. Not anymore.” He later described the incident as “a mistake.”

  • Debate Guide For Media On Trump And Gun Policy

    ››› ››› TIMOTHY JOHNSON

    While the issue of gun violence and gun policy was a common topic of discussion during the Democratic presidential primary debates, Republican nominee Donald Trump gave less than three minutes worth of answers on the issue across 12 GOP primary debates. But gun-related issues have caused several flashpoints throughout Trump’s campaign, including when he claimed that “Second Amendment people” could do something about the election of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

  • Media Matters’ Do’s And Don’ts For Moderators And Media Covering The 2016 Presidential Debates

    ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL

    The 2016 presidential debates will kick off on September 26, giving voters one of their last chances to judge the candidates on the substance and breadth of their policy proposals. With over 100 million people expected to watch, the stakes could not be higher. Voters are mere months away from selecting the person who will become the president of the United States and whose actions will have an immense impact on their everyday lives. Informing this decision is a responsibility that media cannot afford to take lightly.

  • Trump’s 12 Biggest Lies That Debate Moderators Should Be Prepared To Address

    ››› ››› NICK FERNANDEZ

    Independent fact-checking services have found that 70 percent of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s statements are “mostly false,” “false,” or “pants on fire” lies.  As the candidates prepare to face off in the presidential debates, debate moderators must be aware of, and prepared to address, Trump’s biggest and most common lies that have been debunked time and again.