Aug 25, 2020 - Economy

Networks use live fact-checking during first night of RNC

Screen shot from MSNBC coverage in the 9:00 p.m. hour

MSNBC and CNN cut away from live coverage of the Republican National Convention several times on Monday night in order to fact-check claims made by speakers. Fox News also cut away from several speeches, but didn't fact-check claims as aggressively.

Why it matters: There's been an ongoing debate amongst media insiders — and an advocacy campaign from progressive groups — about whether news networks should feel compelled to cut away from the RNC.

  • Earlier on Monday, a coalition of nearly a dozen progressive groups wrote a letter addressed to the heads of CNN, MSNBC, ABC News, NBCUniversal, and CBS, urging them to air the RNC on a one-minute time delay, in order to buy time to fact-check the speeches being made in real-time.
  • The groups include UltraViolet Action, ACRONYM, BlackPAC, Color of Change PAC, EMILY’s List WOMEN VOTE, Higher Heights Political Fund, MomsRising, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and #ShePersisted.

Driving the news: MSNBC cut away from at least 6 speakers on Monday and skipped some speeches entirely, including Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former Fox News host and the girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr.

  • MSNBC, CNN and Fox News all cut away from Vernon Jones, a Democrat from the Georgia State House of Representatives and someone who Republicans were particularly excited about tonight, during his speech in the first hour of the RNC.
  • MSNBC spoke with Dr. Vin Gupta for a fact-check on the use of hydroxychloroquine.

CNN and MSNBC broke away from live coverage of Republican Rep. Jim Jordan when he was speaking in the 9:00 p.m. hour. MSNBC also pulled away from Rep Matt Gaetz.

  • MSNBC cut away from Rep. Jim Jordan’s remarks to fact-check Trump's record on the U.S. Postal Service. It broke away from Natalie Harp, a bone cancer survivor who spoke to the “right to try,” for a commercial break.

Both networks later cut away from a joint speech by Patricia and Mark McCloskey, the couple that went viral after pointing guns at Black Lives Matters protestors outside their house in St. Louis.

  • MSNBC fact-checked the McCloskey's claim that Democrats want to abolish the suburbs by ending single-family home zoning, writing that Biden supports fair housing initiatives.
  • In addition to TV fact-checks, CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale also issued live fact-checks on Twitter and CNN updated its "Facts First" fact-checking blog in real-time.

Fox News cut away from several speeches, including Turning Point USA's Charlie Kirk's speech in the beginning of the night, Gaetz and Guilfoyle.

  • The move drew ire from Trump supporters, including former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale, who is now a senior advisor to the campaign.
  • "Can’t believe I have to watch the convention on @CNN . Unbelievable. @FoxNews," Parscale tweeted.

Yes, but: There's a concern that networks could appear biased against conservatives if they cut away from live convention programming to fact-check the RNC, but not the DNC.

  • But fact-checkers say they have no choice, given the imbalance of truth-telling between the two conventions.
  • "I think it's important for objective journalists to note how wildly imbalanced the dishonesty is between the current parties. This one half-night of Republican programming so far has been exponentially more dishonest than the entire four nights of the Democratic convention," Dale tweeted.

The bottom line: Media organizations have faced sustained criticism for airing Trump speeches and press conferences live, instead of layering on more fact-checking.

  • But live events and speeches can be difficult for networks to fact-check in real time.
  • The media most recently faced this quandary when debating whether or not to air the president's daily coronavirus briefings, in which Trump boasted unproven cures for the virus.
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