The List: Ranking the daily newspaper presidential debate headlines

Andy Downing
Trump and Biden on the debate stage in Cleveland.

Despite what President Donald Trump might have people believe with his constant airing of grievances against the liberal, mainstream, fake news media, most newspapers strain so hard to maintain objectivity in covering this administration that it obliterates accuracy. 

This becomes abundantly clear while scanning the front-page headlines following last night's debate between Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden, a bitter affair defined by the moment Trump issued what many have interpreted as a call-to-arms to a violent hate group (“Proud Boys: stand back and stand by”). The call followed moderator Chris Wallace's push to make Trump denounce white nationalism, which the president refused.

During the debate, Trump also urged his supporters to “go watch the polls,” a move that would appear to go against federal and state voter intimidation laws, while citing without evidence “bad things” happening in Philadelphia and “thousands of ballots being manipulated.”

Biden, meanwhile, called Trump a clown and at one point asked him to “shut up, man.”

Rather than reflecting the wide gulf between these behaviors, though, most daily news headlines treated the two candidates as flip sides of the same coin, as if calling someone a clown was somehow on equal ground with questioning the legitimacy of the election or refusing to denounce white supremacy, which has becomesomething of a calling card for Trump

A number of newspapers opted for broad, alliterative phrases such as “A War of Words” or “Candidates Clash” (even the Canadian press!), while others, such as theMiami Herald, penned headers that should have come equipped with a safe word (“Face-to-face anger as Trump, Biden lash each other”).

Collectively, this has the effect of dulling Trump’s authoritarian words and behaviors, painting them as part of a campaign being played equally by both sides. There’s a difference between objectivity and accuracy, and in today's media the latter is too often sacrificed in an attempt to pacify the former.

With that in mind, here’s how we would rank today's front-page print headlines:



Worst (tie):

Trump, Biden Wage Crucial Face-Off

Hartford Courant (Hartford, Connecticut)

Mutual Contempt at First Trump-Biden Debate

Anniston Star (Anniston, Alabama)

Attacks, interruptions mark chaotic debate

Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, Maryland)

Debate plunges into fiery squabbling

Washington Post (Washington D.C.)

Face-to-face anger as Trump, Biden lash each other

Miami Herald (Miami, Florida)

Trump, Biden Spar in First Face-Off

Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois)

Chaos on the Debate Stage

Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts)

Invectives and Interruptions Mark Debate

Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California)

Chaos center stage

Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

First Trump-Biden debate an angry, tumultuous affair

Seattle Times (Seattle, Washington)