No, Mainstream Media, Hillary Did Not Win the First Debate
Immediately after the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton ended Monday night, liberal media pundits began gloating abuot how poorly Trump performed. Many Republicans piled on. I felt like we had watched two different debates.
Were they right? No.
Trump’s Higher Hurdle
Trump had to jump higher hurdles than Clinton to get a favorable report from the mainstream media, who favor Clinton and see the world the way she does. He faced other disadvantages.
The moderator, Lester Holt of NBC Nightly News, is being called “the third debater” by HeatStreet for his biased role. He asked six follow-up questions of Trump but none of Clinton. Holt asked Clinton nothing about her emails, Benghazi or the Clinton Foundation. Instead, he “grilled Trump on stop-and-frisk, the birther story, his comments about women, his many bankruptcies, why he hasn’t released his tax returns — and a host of other issues the media sees as unfriendly to the Republican candidate.”
Holt’s fact-checking follow-ups were directed at Trump, not Clinton. Todd Starnes, a contributor to The Stream, tweeted, “Lester Holt should’ve moderated — instead of auditioning to be Hillary’s press secretary.” (For other examples of the media’s unfair use of fact-checking against Trump, see The Washington Times‘ article “Eight examples where ‘fact-checking’ became opinion journalism.”)
Journalists evaluating the debate kept up the claim that Trump made many mistakes and false claims. Compared to Clinton, he is vulnerable to this criticism. Clinton is a lawyer, with years of experience nitpicking details, which showed when she got bogged down on details several times during the debate. In contrast, Trump is a creative innovator, who has focused on the big picture throughout his entire career.
Now, it is true that Trump made a few mistakes, but his misstatements were generally not material. One “error” some jumped on was his saying Clinton has “been fighting ISIS [her] entire adult life.”
Yes, ISIS began in 1999, when Clinton was 52. She hasn’t been fighting ISIS her entire adult life. But as a public figure, she has always been a strong supporter of aggressive military action against such groups. Trump exaggerated to make a point about her consistent support for military intervention. It’s called “hyperbole” and it’s a legitimate way of making a point. Nevertheless, some “fact-checkers” declared that Trump was wrong again.
Clinton Performed Even Worse
What the media is leaving out is that Clinton performed even worse than Trump. Equally missing is any praise for the clever things Trump said.
Stylistically, Clinton was a disaster. It may not be fair to judge candidates on this, but style does influence voters — remember the Nixon-Kennedy debate. She marched out in a glaringly bright red pantsuit, the type of outfit she is ridiculed for, since the harsh colors are unforgiving to her body shape. She reverted to her nasally, harsh “schoolmarm” voice throughout the length of the debate, perhaps to keep from coughing.
She came across as arrogant and condescending, unlikable, particularly when she gloated while boasting about her accomplishments. Since few voters know anything about her tenure as secretary of state other than the Benghazi terror attack and her email scandal, the bragging felt fake.
Trump cleverly interjected short comments while Clinton was speaking, refuting her. Even if a critic disagrees with him, the critic should credit him with an effective debating strategy. Of course, his critics complain that he only did that because she’s a woman — though if Clinton had done the same to him they would have been silent.
Professional political observers can argue about who did better in the debate. I think Trump did better than Clinton, but liberal journalists usually think Clinton did better than Trump. The real test is what effect the debates have on undecided voters, and that is something we won’t know for a long time. (For more from the author of “No, Mainstream Media, Hillary Did Not Win the First Debate” please click HERE)
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