Hillary Clinton is already working the refs for Monday's debate


Late on Friday afternoon, Hillary Clinton’s campaign put a document online outlining many of her Republican rival Donald Trump’s lies—yes, lies. The “prebuttal” cites media accounts pointing to the many, many incidences where Trump’s remarks have fallen short of any recognizable version of reality. The compendium is, as Clinton’s website declares, a “damning list of Donald Trump’s most discredited lies from the campaign so far.”

The list of “debunked lies” is transparently an effort to work the refs ahead of Monday night’s highly anticipated first debate between Clinton and Trump. “Debates are about each candidate laying out their vision for America, not making things up. Donald Trump has shown a clear pattern of repeating provably false lies and hoping no one corrects him,” declared Jennifer Palmieri, the Clinton campaign’s communications director (and, full disclosure, once a colleague of mine at the Center for American Progress), in the short introduction to the document.

Many Clinton supporters had clearly been rattled by a national security forum several weeks ago moderated by NBC News’s Matt Lauer, where Clinton and Trump made back-to-back appearances. While Lauer interrupted Clinton several times, he allowed Trump to repeat several frequently issued—and publicly debunked—lies without challenging the GOP nominee.

The hope with the catalogue of Trump’s lies and the attendant corrections seems to be that the refs of the national political conversation—especially debate moderators—won’t let his departures from the truth slip by unnoticed. One can be fairly sure debate moderators, anchors and news producers alike will take the time to read this document before they next engage in a back-and-forth with Trump.

The massive document—when copied into a word processor, the list of Trump falsehoods tops 25 pages—recounts over 200 instances where Trump has made a remark on the campaign trail that was judged either by media outlets or political fact-checking groups as false. The fact that the list is so long is not only a measure of the Clinton team’s thoroughness, but also of Trump’s off-the-wall antics.

The list starts off with “Trump’s Seven Deadly Lies”—ranging from expected entries, like that Mexico would pay for a border wall, to outrageous ones, such as his claim that Barack Obama and Clinton “founded” the terrorist group ISIS—then runs through dozens upon dozens more, sorting by subject area until the reader arrives at the impossibly meta “TRUMP’S LIES ABOUT TRUMP” and, finally, miscellanea (“AND MUCH MORE”). Sometimes the fact-checks are nitpicks (do we really need a citation to dismiss Trump’s notion that “nobody respects our president”?) and sometimes they are devastating to the central claims of Trump’s candidacy (“Trump says Clinton wants to create ‘totally open borders.’ // False”.)

Many news outlets and fact-check sites have taken note of Trump’s propensity to veer far from reality; the Clinton fact-check document notes that, of the claims checked by PolitiFact, the respected website has found a “whopping 70% of Trump’s claims are untrue” (emphasis in original).

In some cases, the news media’s reaction has already taken a turn toward holding Trump to account. Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The New York Times, told Slate today, “I don’t think we’ve ever had somebody who in my time as a journalist so openly lies, and that was a word that we struggled to actually utter.” But the paper has overcome that struggle, not only calling Trump’s falsehoods “lies,” but even doing so in prominently featured headlines.

While clearly aimed at working the refs, the Clinton campaign’s public release of the document has a built-in back-up plan. “Voters and viewers should keep track: any candidate who tells this many lies clearly can’t win the debate on the merits,” Palmieri said in the document’s introduction. That is, if debate moderators and interviewers can’t hold Trump to account for his lies, an army of Clinton supporters have the factual ammunition on hand to offer their no-doubt civil takes on the moderators’ failures.

Ali Gharib is a journalist based in Brooklyn. Sometimes he writes about bars and broke down cars.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin