The New York Times coverage of the third and final presidential debate was dominated by what it termed “a remarkable statement that seemed to cast doubt on American democracy” -- Trump’s refusal to state he would accept the results of next month’s presidential election, along with a cutting front-page opinion on how Hillary flustered Trump. There was also another ideologically slanted fact-check of the debate.
The lead to Thursday’s front-page story, “Trump Won’t Say If He Will Accept Election’s Result,” by Patrick Healy and Jonathan Martin:
In a remarkable statement that seemed to cast doubt on American democracy, Donald J. Trump said Wednesday that he might not accept the results of next month’s election if he felt it was rigged against him -- a stand that Hillary Clinton blasted as “horrifying” at their final and caustic debate on Wednesday.
Mr. Trump, under enormous pressure to halt Mrs. Clinton’s steady rise in opinion polls, came across as repeatedly frustrated as he tried to rally conservative voters with hard-line stands on illegal immigration and abortion rights. But he kept finding himself drawn onto perilous political territory by Mrs. Clinton and the debate’s moderator, Chris Wallace.
He sputtered when Mrs. Clinton charged that he would be “a puppet” of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia if elected. He lashed out repeatedly, saying that “she’s been proven to be a liar on so many different ways” and that “she’s guilty of a very, very serious crime” over her State Department email practices. And by the end of the debate, when Mrs. Clinton needled him over Social Security, Mr. Trump snapped and said, “Such a nasty woman.”
Mrs. Clinton was repeatedly forced to defend her long service in government, which Mr. Trump charged had yielded no real accomplishments. But she was rarely rattled, and made a determined effort to rise above Mr. Trump’s taunts while making overtures to undecided voters.
But it was Mr. Trump’s remark about the election results that stood out, even in a race that has been full of astonishing moments.
Democratic candidate Al Gore lost narrowly in Florida, and thus lost the election to George Bush. Yet that didn’t stop Democrats from trying to overturn the results until the Supreme Court ruled in Bush’s favor.
Just as during the second debate, the “fact-checking” disparity was enormous. In the third debate, Trump was fact-checked 18 times, with only 2 of his statements found True, 9 False, and 7 In-Between. Clinton was fact-checked only 10 times, with a whopping 7 True, 1 False, and 2 In-Between.
(In the second debate, Trump got even more fact-check attention -- 23 occasions, in which he was credited with only 2 True statements, 8 In-Betweens, and a whopping 13 False findings. Clinton was hardly fact-checked in the second debate and was credited with 3 True statements, 1 In-Between, and just 1 False.)
One doesn’t have to believe Donald Trump is a flawless truth-teller to suspect some cherry-picking and ideological wishful thinking skewed the results. Just a couple of examples:
Regarding Mrs. Clinton’s private email server, Mr. Trump said that “she’s guilty of a very, very serious crime.”
Intelligence reporter Eric Lichtblau leaped fervently to Clinton’s defense:
Not even close. Not only wasn’t Hillary Clinton found “guilty” of any crimes over her handling of her private emails, she wasn’t even prosecuted. The F.B.I. investigated the email issue for more than a year before deciding this summer that while Mrs. Clinton’s handling of classified information in her emails was “extremely careless,” there was not evidence of a crime. The Justice Department closed the case.
When Hillary gave the misleading statistic that “We have 33,000 people a year who die from guns.” The Times’ Thomas Kaplan awarded her a truthful statement while also admitting:
The majority are suicides. The number of firearm deaths in the United States totaled 33,599 in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those deaths, 21,334 were suicides, while 10,945 were homicides.
David Harsanyi compiled a list of “outrageous Hillary Clinton lies” in the name of fact-check balance.
Also on Thursday’s front page, Hillary-beat reporter Amy Chozick portrayed a triumphant Clinton in “Mocking and Taunting, Clinton Turns the Tormentor.”
She mansplained him. “Let me translate that if I can,” Hillary Clinton said dryly after Donald J. Trump talked up his tax plan.
She interrupted him. When Mr. Trump boasted of the gilded Las Vegas hotel that bears his name, Mrs. Clinton leaned into her microphone. “Made with Chinese steel,” she quipped with a smile.
She mocked him. After Mr. Trump said President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had “no respect” for her, Mrs. Clinton slyly posited why Mr. Putin seemingly preferred Mr. Trump: “He’d rather have a puppet as president of the United States,” she said.
In the third and final presidential debate, Mrs. Clinton outmaneuvered Mr. Trump with a surprising new approach: his.
Chozick sold Hillary the wonk:
After two historically acrid debates, Mrs. Clinton finally got the policy discussion she had craved. But in between expounding on her proposals to make college affordable and to raise the minimum wage, she savaged Mr. Trump’s career, his finances and his sensitivities, portraying him as a lightweight with the temperament of a spoiled child.
And yet it seemed clear through this last confrontation that there was a gap in knowledge, or at least in command of the material that candidates seeking to be president are expected to master.
Michael Grynbaum, who lashed out at fellow journalist Matt Lauer’s grilling of Hillary Clinton and failure to properly annihilate Donald Trump, gave a thumbs-up to Fox News journalist Chris Wallace’s performance as debate moderator:
The smart money on Wednesday’s matchup between Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump was for a 12-round, no-holds-barred bout worthy of this city’s prizefights.
But Chris Wallace wanted a debate. And for the most part, he got one.
The first Fox News journalist chosen to moderate a general-election debate, Mr. Wallace mixed humor with scolding and persistence with patience to guide his charges toward the most substantive encounter of an unusually vicious election.
Grynbaum couldn’t resist a left jab:
Some liberals worried he could carry conservative bias onto the stage. Mr. Wallace also took heat for saying he did not plan to aggressively fact-check the candidates, preferring that they questioned each other.