Factchecking the Debate Moderator

With all the newfound interest in campaign factchecking in the corporate media (that enthusiasm shouldn’t be confused with being good at it), it’s worth remembering that it’s not just the political candidates whose claims should be factchecked. The moderators should face some scrutiny too.

Last night ABC‘s Martha Raddatz framed a question this way:

Let’s talk about Medicare and entitlements. Both Medicare and Social Security are going broke and taking a larger share of the budget in the process. Will benefits for Americans under these programs have to change for the programs to survive?

Glenn Greenwald caught that one, and the Institute for Public Accuracy did as well. As we’ve been pointing out for a long time now, Social Security is not going broke. Not even close, as a matter of fact. (Read Greenwald’s piece for a great rebuttal.)

Why does this matter? Well, besides the obvious reason (if the reporter at the table isn’t getting the facts right, why would the politicians?), it’s important to understand the question that grows out of this misinformation: How much of a cut must we all take in order to avoid the looming bankruptcy of the system. A politician who had a more reality-based view of Social Security’s financial health would have to correct the assumptions in the question before attempting to answer it, which is difficult.

As Barack Obama said in the first debate with Mitt Romney, there’s not a lot of disagreement in their views on Social Security. This caused some anger on the Democratic side, since many Democrats want their position to be clearly differentiated from the Republican side. Obama might have other ideas. But whatever the candidate are saying, there needs to be a place at the debate table for the facts.

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.