A claim that the Democratic debates were scheduled to “maximize” viewership has been exposed as the lie that it is.
When Debbie Wasserman Schultz went on CNN and said the paltry six debates (compared to the Republicans’ 11 were designed to maximize the opportunity for voters to see our candidates,” PolitiFact rated the claim false.
The debates – scheduled on weekends, during playoff games and right before Christmas – were designed to garner as few voters as possible, preserving the status quo and ensuring their candidate, Hillary Clinton, would sail through the primaries.
But Wasserman Schultz thinks six poorly timed debates is plenty.
“In fact, our first debate beat at least two of the Republican debates. And our last debate, compared to the Republican last debate, was just a little bit less than theirs,” the Democratic National Committee chair told CNN’s Brian Stelter Jan. 17, hours before the debate over the Martin Luther King weekend in Charleston.
After Stelter pressed her, Wasserman Schultz, a Broward County congresswoman, replied:
“Brian, there’s no number of debates that will satisfy everyone. So, 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 maximize the opportunity for voters to see our candidates.”
Of course, that’s total garbage. Back in 2008, Democrats has 25 debates – not six.
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.
Kall cited two major factors beyond the Democrats’ control that have aided superior Republican ratings: a much larger GOP field and the phenomenon of Donald Trump, an entertainment star in his own right from his time on The Apprentice.
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.
“I think we can safely say that weekend time slots are not the key to maximizing the viewing audience,” Schroeder said. …