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Inside Story: US 2012
US presidential debates: Fact or fiction?
With much of what Romney said in the first debate found to be untrue, we discuss the US media's role in the election.
Last Modified: 06 Oct 2012 13:32

Mitt Romney, the Republican's presidential candidate, has almost unanimously been declared the winner of the first presidential debate. Yet much of what he said has also been found to be untrue. What does that tell us about the political discourse this election season?

"He [Obama] should have been more aggressive. Especially as we know that the media wanted Mitt Romney to be the victor in this debate. They want this race to stay close, so if he did even a little bit better than expected they would have declared him the winner. And he did a lot better."

- Matt Butler, the president of Media Matters

The presidential debates are supposed to give the American people a crucial chance to judge the merits of each candidate as they discuss the key issues over 90 minutes. And the Republicans are in a buoyant mood.

Almost unanimously, the media proclaimed that Mitt Romney won a resounding victory over President Barack Obama in Denver on Wednesday.

The debate's moderator, Jim Lehrer of PBS, a veteran of 12 presidential debates, has previously said it is not the job of the moderator to challenge untruths.

And faced with a subdued president, Mitt Romney was allowed to make bold statements that even commentators from the right accept had little substance or were out right false.

US broadcasters spend millions on their cutting-edge graphics and teams of fact checkers. But their focus was not on whether the man asking to become president was blatently displaying fundamental dishonesty; but on how successful he had been in appearing to be a credible candidate.

Does the US media properly hold politicians to account? And what is the role of the moderator in the presidential debates?

Inside Story US 2012 is joined by guests: Matt Butler, the president of Media Matters; Amy Goodman, a host and executive producer of Democracy Now; and David Westin, who served as president of ABC News between 1997 and 2010.

365

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Al Jazeera
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