Fact checkers waited on the edges of their seats with internet browsers open, anticipating the beginning of the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump last Monday night.
Major news organizations and even University of Maryland campus publications tweeted in real time throughout the debate. Stories Beneath the Shell tweeted 25 fact checks, The Washington Post noted 23 claims and PolitiFact checked 33 claims made during the debate.
“Trump and Clinton talk over eachother too fast. But I tried to catch the most important and most outrageous statements statements made,” said junior government and politics and psychology major Stacey Khizder, who fact checked for Stories Beneath the Shell. “It was difficult paying attention to the content of the debate while simultaneously trying to find the right sources.”
The most retweeted tweet during the debate verified Clinton’s statement that Trump blamed climate change on China. Fact checkers immediately brought up a tweet from 2012, in which Trump said: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”
A majority of the facts checked during the debate were calling Trump’s statements into questions. In fact, it was Hillary’s campaign that called to everyone to fact check during the debate. They even temporarily transformed her website (hillaryclinton.com) into a real-time fact checker.
“In general there were a lot of people speaking out against Trump [on Twitter] and how the things he was saying weren’t actually factual,” sophomore government and politics major Aayushi Shah said. “I think one of the major criticisms against Hillary was her use of political jargon… but she knows what she’s talking about.”
Though some say that PolitiFact and other fact checkers have an anti-right (and anti-Trump) bias, Khizder said she did her best to check every claim made by both candidates.
“The first thing they teach you in psych is that everyone has implicit bias. However, I do respect nonpartisan reporting. I try my best to be critical of both candidates, no matter how I personally feel,” Khizder said. “Those personal thoughts can come out through my personal Twitter account. It’s definitely difficult, but it being biased doesn’t do our viewers and readers justice.”
Vice presidential nominees Tim Kaine (D) and Mike Pence (R) are facing off this Tuesday at Longwood University. Khizder may be fact checking that debate as well for Stories Beneath the Shell.
Trump and Clinton are scheduled to participate in their next debate on Sunday, Oct. 9 at Washington University in St. Louis. This next debate will include questions submitted from live viewers.
“Donald Trump definitely needs to stop interrupting Hillary [at the next debate]. But, I want to see them talk more about race relations and education,” Shah said.