Monday's presidential debate is a moment of truth for America's political media. After an 18-month campaign of character destruction against Hillary Clinton, the scales can be rebalanced by a single journalist. That journalist is debate moderator Lester Holt. By simply acknowledging the truth about the grossly lopsided coverage that has favored Donald Trump, Holt can at long last bring equality and fairness to the 2016 election.
With the mass media's popularity at an all time low, Monday night's debate can be a redeeming moment for our political press.
The New York Times lays down the marker:
If the moderators of the coming debates do not figure out a better way to get the candidates to speak accurately about their records and policies — especially Mr. Trump, who seems to feel he can skate by unchallenged with his own version of reality while Mrs. Clinton is grilled and entangled in the fine points of domestic and foreign policy — then they will have done the country a grave disservice.
Jonathan Chait affirms the gravity of the national media's glaring double standard against the first woman with a viable shot at the White House:
The inability to contextualize [Clinton's] flaws has been a signal failure of the general election.
"Signal failure" is precisely the term for the relentless and aggressive efforts on the part of reporters and pundits to undermine Clinton's public image.
The gaping chasm between Hillary Clinton's true character and the grotesque caricature portrayed in the media has distorted reality beyond recognition.
Chait captures the staggering perplexity of it all:
It is a finding that boggles the mind. Americans deem Clinton less honest and trustworthy than a man who lies in public about opponents in both parties with a frequency and brazenness unsurpassed in national politics, who has broken precedent by refusing to disclose his tax returns, who routinely refused to pay contractors for services rendered, who abused a charitable foundation for personal and political gain, who once boasted in a best-selling book about his habit of lying, and who is currently facing trial for bilking thousands of victims in a massive fraud.
I challenge anyone in the corporate media to argue that spending 460 consecutive days breathlessly reporting on Clinton's emails — for which she was officially exonerated of wrongdoing and has repeatedly expressed regret — while ignoring dozens of disqualifying Trump transgressions is fair. It is not fair. Not by any reasonable measure. Not by any stretch of the imagination.
If Lester Holt seeks a genuinely level playing field on Monday night, he can begin by asking this question:
Secretary Clinton, by all objective standards you are an honest and trustworthy person whose character is vouched for by the most accomplished and respected people in the world. But for some reason, my peers have labored tirelessly to convey the opposite impression, and have done so with ruthless efficiency. Can you forgive us for savaging your character? Can you forgive us for actively tipping the scales in your opponent's favor? Can you forgive our mindless and incessant repetition of baseless GOP talking points? Can you ever forgive us?
That is the only way to establish true parity in the debate. Then move on to policy and fact check the living daylights out of the candidates.