"Goddamn it, do journalism! Do journalism!" Yeah, Cenk, I feel the same way.
CNN didn't fact-check the debate, didn't object to even the most obvious lies, because if they did that, they'd never hold another Republican Party debate. Ever.
They had the biggest audience in CNN's history. They'd never had so many people watching CNN. That's hugely important to their corporation's profits. There's no way in hell they'd risk that. So of course they let these politicians lie with impunity.
Now, sure, you can always find out the truth later, if you want, on websites and in videos like this one. But all of those combined won't receive as many views as the debate. And what's the narrative afterwards? Are these politicians forever after branded as liars, then?
When it comes to Carly Fiorina, TPM puts it well:
Press failures, especially massive ones, tend to be right there in plain site and yet totally invisible, entirely ignored. And yet we have a massive one coming out of Wednesday night's Republican debate that the press seems inclined or insisting on totally ignoring. Commentators are toasting Carly Fiorina as the break-out winner of the debate. And yet she not only made a string of false statements, or claims that showed a willful disregard for or ignorance of reality, she almost certainly manufactured a bogus memory entirely out of whole cloth. And all of this is cast into particularly high relief since Fiorina went into the debate intent on branding Hillary Clinton as a liar. "Her track record of lying about Benghazi, of lying about her e- mails, about lying about her servers," is something Hillary will have to answer for, Fiorina bellowed in the debate.
Now it may seem odd to call this a press failure when I'm about to cite several press organizations that quickly noted all these distortions and outright lies. But this is always the case with a press failure of this magnitude. Someone is always making the point here or there. But it doesn't take shape as part of the narrative of what happened in the debate or the campaign. That's certainly the case here. Vox, ABC News and Esquire have each in one way or another been all over this. But the reality of what Fiorina did in this debate and a number of earlier press encounters is totally absent from the basic themes of the post-debate coverage.
Fiorina has a habit of simply making things up. In the case of the parts of the Planned Parenthood videos, the way she made it up seems to verge on the pathological. Again she says she saw something in these videos that completely wasn't there. And she doubled down on it the next day. This is just lying through your teeth or just being so indifferent to whether things are true or not that it amounts to the same thing.
The narrative, which you see everywhere, is that Carly Fiorina won the debate. Her ratings went up. The fact that she said nothing but lies doesn't seem to matter in the slightest. It certainly doesn't seem to matter to the mainstream press. That's not part of the narrative at all.
If there's no downside to lying, then politicians will lie. Well, successful politicians will lie, anyway. Why wouldn't they?
Remember when Al Gore claimed to have invented the internet? That was a lie. Of course, it wasn't Al Gore's lie, because Al Gore didn't say that. He didn't even come close to saying that. The lie, from the Republican Party, was that he said it. But that lie became the narrative. That lie successfully tarred Al Gore with something completely untrue.
Lying works, especially if you have enough money and enough propaganda outlets like Fox 'News' and enough people willing to repeat the lie. There's no downside to lying, especially in a debate broadcast to millions of people, if the media won't immediately call out lies.
Or even make a big deal about the lies. The established narrative of the debate isn't that Carly Fiorina lied through her teeth, but that she 'won' the debate.
Why do we let this happen? Personally, I think it's mostly about money. The Republican Party won't let a media company hold one of their debates if their candidates can't get away with lying.
Similarly, if a journalist asks tough questions in an interview (like asking Sarah Palin which newspapers she reads!), that journalist will get no more interviews. Indeed, the journalist's employer would be punished for that. Some other company would get access, not theirs.
But TMP says it's laziness:
Why is the press ignoring or hushing this up? It's almost always a matter of laziness. Hillary is the shifty-eyed liar, Rick Perry was the dolt, Obama is stand-offish and cerebral. Everybody has their cliche or caricature through which all their actions are understood. Confirmatory news is kept; disconfirmatory news is tossed aside. To an important degree, this is simply human nature. We all do it to some degree in our daily lives. But journalists have special responsibilities to look past caricatures and the familiar. In this case, they're failing that test. You should not be able to tell a slew of small fibs in a big debate and one mammoth one and not have it become part of the campaign discussion at all.
Of course, all politicians lie, right? That's the other excuse you'll hear. If everyone is tarred by the same brush, then it doesn't matter how outrageously you lie. There's no downside to lying if the response is that 'everyone does it.'
That's how we get politicians we can't stand. That's how we get a dysfunctional Congress. When a politician does something outrageous, the common response - and not just by that politician's supporters - is that 'they all do it.' Thus, there's absolutely no downside to being exceptionally bad.
In a democracy, we get the kinds of politicians we deserve.