PolitiFact: Debbie, You’re Being ‘Very Disingenuous’ When You Say The DNC Debate Schedule Maximizes Exposure

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Jan 24, 2016 12:15 PM
PolitiFact: Debbie, You’re Being ‘Very Disingenuous’ When You Say The DNC Debate Schedule Maximizes Exposure

Do you remember when Democratic National Committee chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) said, “I did my best to make sure, along with my staff and along with our debate partners, to come up with a schedule that we felt was going to allow for the — to maximize the opportunity for voters to see our candidates.” Right, that’s why Democrats only scheduled six debates, half of which are on weekend, and have only managed to reach roughly half the viewership as that of the Republican debates.

The left-leaning PolitiFact even called out the DNC chair on this “disingenuous” claim, labeling it false:

We contacted five professors of political science and communications. None of them bought Wasserman Schultz’s statement.

"By the time voting starts in Iowa, potential voters will have seen about 40 percent less of Democratic candidates on the debate stage than their Republican counterparts," University of Michigan’s Director of Debate Aaron Kall told PolitiFact.

Kall cited several factors contributing to the larger Republican viewership:

  • The first Republican debate occurred in early August, before the start of the NFL and NCAA college football seasons. Viewer anticipation is usually highest for the first debate. The Democrats didn't host their first debate until over two months later.
  • Of the four Democratic debates so far, three were on weekends, including the Dec. 19 debate a week before Christmas and the same night as the New York Jets vs. Dallas Cowboys NFL game. The Jan. 17 debate was the day before the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday.

[…]

John Schroeder at Northeastern University noted that the two highest Republican debates each drew between 23 million and 24 million, much higher than the Democratic debates. While a lot of the disparity is due to Trump, another factor is that all the Republican debates so far have been held on weekdays.

[…]

Wasserman Schultz says the party came up with a debate schedule "to maximize the opportunity for voters to see our candidates."

Wasserman Schultz’s best point is that the Democrats largely scheduled their debates with TV networks, which means viewers without cable can see them. But other than that, her statement is very disingenuous.

There are six Democratic party debates compared with 11 scheduled for the Republicans, and half of the Democratic debates are on weekends -- including one the weekend before Christmas and another on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. If the Democrats had wanted to "maximize" opportunities for viewers, the party could have added more debates, scheduled them on weekdays and avoided holidays.

We rate this claim False.

Of course, the professors of communications and political science also noted that Trumpmentum played a part in the Republicans boosting a larger audience, but as you can tell, having their debates on the weekdays really helped…maximize exposure for them.