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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Would Live Fact Checkers Keep The Debates Honest?

Vicki Meyer traveled to Washington, DC with her petition asking the Commission on Presidential Debates to have live fact checkers during the debates. (Courtesy Sign-on.org)

Vicki Meyer, of Sarasota, Fla., has an idea. She wants to have live fact checkers on hand at the presidential and vice presidential debates to make sure Americans are getting the whole truth from the candidates.

And it seems like a lot of people agree with her.

Meyer, a retired college instructor, circulated a petition on SignOn.org asking the Commission on Presidential Debates to include fact checkers at the debates. More than 215,000 signed her petition.

Voter Disillusionment

Meyer told Here & Now‘s Robin Young that she got the idea after working on voter registration drives in Florida.

“We got the reply from a lot of people saying, ‘Why should we vote? They’re all a bunch of liars.’ They felt the same disillusionment that I felt,” Meyer said.

Under Meyer’s plan, the fact checkers would present the debate moderator with their reviews during commercial breaks. Then the moderator could decide what to do with the information. Meyer would also want to have the information flash on TV screens for the audience at home.

Petitioning The Commission On Presidential Debates

“I think the truth can bring us together.”
– Vicki Meyer, retired college instructor

SignOn.org flew Meyer to Washington, D.C., to present her petitions to the Commission on Presidential Debates, but Meyer said they wouldn’t meet with her. She couldn’t even get them to accept the box of petitions.

“I can understand that [they wouldn't take the box] in the time of bombs and all that, but I was disappointed,” she said.

A Fact Checking Time Crunch

The commission didn’t return our calls for comment.

But Rob Farley, deputy managing editor of FactCheck.org told Here & Now, that they would have seven people fact checking the debate, but he said it wouldn’t be feasible to present the information in real time.

Farley said while the candidates will likely fall back on some themes that have already gone through the fact checking process, they will likely tweak the lines, which would require new analysis.

Farley said their results will likely come out in the wee hours of Thursday morning.

‘The Truth Can Bring Us Together’

But Meyer is undeterred. She believes fact checking could help break some of the polarization in the country.

“I think the truth can bring us together,” Meyer said. “We all really want the same thing. We want our country to be strong, we want our families to be safe, and we want our children to have a better life.”


  • Vicki Meyer, retired college instructor

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  • Jpx

    Great idea!  I just signed the petition.  Hope a lot of others do too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/drpmeade Paul S Meade

    It is somewhat telling that the debate commission basically barred Vicki Meyer from even presenting the petition.  Albeit that this is a “last minute” proposal but they could have had the courtesy to at least accept the petitions and released comments later.

    Why wasn’t this better thought out and earlier? If the petition had been submitted in a more timely fashion the impact of this story would have been stronger.

    Seems like Fact Check dropped the ball on this one. 

  • http://eatthebabies.com/ BradyDale

    It’s a fine idea, for what it’s worth, tho I’m not sure they can do fact checking quite that fast.

    I just wrote this on Facebook in response to the end of the interview tho. Her fundamental assumption is naive:

    I don’t think I have said one little peep about this election so far, so I will say this and only this. I was listening to an affable old woman on Here and Now just now, and she said of the present polarization that “We all want the same thing.” Look, no we don’t. There are two, probably three, majorly different sets of values at play in the US right now. Debate and discussion is hopeless when the basic values are different. Values are just values. You can’t tell me I ought to care more about Family than Community. Or more about Contentment than Faith. Values are basic assumptions we use to decide what we are going to do and you can’t debate them. You can only clarify them. And there are majorly contradictory values at work in different parts of the country right now and no amount of “fact checking” or “dialogue” or “singing of kum by yah” will yield consensus. In short: we don’t want the same thing, nice old lady, and anyone who repeats his pablum is doing more harm than good. That’s why it’s such a fight. Because many people don’t really know which of the competing values we care about the most because most of them value them all a little bit. The question is how much. But in the end, in the grand sweep, the large sets of values are very different and – in fact – at their extremes, mutually exclusive. And that’s why it’s such a fight. 

  • Patricia McCormack

    I think it is a WONDERFUL idea.  I am really for it.  I think all of the American people would welcome it.

  • BHA_in_Vermont

    If they didn’t tell half truths, lie by omission or OUTRIGHT LIE, we wouldn’t need fact checkers. 

  • Thomas Peischl

    Allow facts to interfere with a debate – how absurd!

  • Thomas Peischl


  • MattNicodemus

    In the same way that various TV news programs place a running headlines strip along the bottom, the debsate broadcasters could do the same thing with the fact checking information.  And even if viewers can’t follow both the present-time debate and the fact checkers’ analysis of the candidates’ debate points, in this era of digital recording, they can always go back and view the debate again, to focus on the fact checking.

  • http://twitter.com/RLaratt Rob Laratta

    The problem is fact checkers aren’t alway accurate or truthful.  While I assume the candidates would bring their own to remove biases one way or another, the debate is to judge the candidates not their teams or cronies.  In this day and age fact checks will be all over the news and airwaves. (unfortunatley most of them biased.)

  • Dm

    At this moment there are 241605 signers. Every time I refresh the page there’s more signatures, that’s how fast people are signing. And I love the comments coming from people across the nation. 

    Brady Dale, fact checkers were at the last debate and ready with their results. We weren’t given the timely benefit of their knowledge. How come?

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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