A fact-checking guide to the first 2016 presidential debate

It’s tough to predict whether any statements meaty enough for fact-checking will be uttered at Thursday’s GOP presidential candidate debates in Cleveland, the first of the 2016 presidential election.FCP logo

Rick Santorum, certainly a veteran of such events, insists that “all the candidates know that giving any kind of substantive answer is a mistake.”

“All you have to do is have zingers,” he told RealClearPolitics.

And then there’s the incalculable Trump factor (which, the Washington Post says, “is the only reason you care about the Republican Primary Debate”).

“Imagine a NASCAR driver mentally preparing for a race, knowing one of the drivers will be drunk,” one GOP advisor tweeted. And The New Yorker’s Borowitz Report has already imagined the 10-way conversation, which ends with Trump declaring himself the winner.

Still, whenever 10 politicians are in front of a national audience — make that an international audience — the truth just might get trampled. So when the candidates meet at 9 p.m. Thursday at Quicken Loans Arena, fact-checkers will be ready with archives, data and fast responses.

This sort of “live” fact-checking isn’t off the cuff, explains Aaron Sharockman, editor of PunditFact. The PolitiFact and PunditFact staffs “prepare for any major political event by combing through our archive of 11,000 fact-checks and cataloging reports that may be relevant. We then create scripts and tweets and Facebook posts.”

“If a candidate or public official makes a claim that we’ve fact-checked previously, we’re prepared to resurface that content,” said Sharockman.

Want to join the fact-checking fun? Here’s are just some of the journalists who will be fact-checking and analyzing the candidates’ statements:

FactCheck.org will tweet @factcheckdotorg during the debate and will post their fact-checks shortly after the debate ends. Read their review of the candidates’ statements at Monday’s GOP forum in New Hampshire.

The Washington Post’s Fact Checker will tweet @GlennKessler WP. Watch for live blog posts during the debate; fact checks will be published on the Fact Checker blog Thursday night and in the Washington Post print edition. Readers can tweet #FactCheckThis with questions.

PolitiFact will cover the debate through a live blog and Facebook, and will post Twitter updates @PolitiFact. Fact checks will be published Thursday night and Friday. You can send fact-checking questions and suggestions during the debate using the Twitter hashtag #PolitiFactThis, or e-mail truthometer@politifact.com with the subject line “PolitiFact This.” Read PolitiFact’s pre-debate fact-check of GOP candidates Donald Trump and Rick Perry.

The McClatchy D.C. bureau will live-blog the debate with feeds from bureaus around the country and will publish a fact-check authored by reporters covering national security, economics, Clinton and the White House reporters. Follow @McClatchyDC.

NPR’s politics team will include fact checking and analysis in tonight’s coverage. Follow updates at npr.org and on Twitter @nprpolitics.

MIC’s Politics, News and Identities teams will cover the debate while senior editor Scott Bixby covers the spin room from Quicken Loans Arena. Follow him @scottbix along with @micnews and @policymic.

Tired of fact-checking? Here are two options:

Head over to FactsCan for fact-checking coverage of the Canadian party leaders’ debate, also the first in Canada’s current election. It begins at 8 p.m. Eastern time. Here’s why you might find it interesting.  

Find some faux-checking. For example, Marco Rubio’s campaign will offer “real-time fact-checking” during the debate.

Is your news organization fact-checking and assessing the candidates’ statements during Thursday night’s debate? Let us know so we can add you to this guide.