Martin O'Malley, looking back at his failed presidential campaign, made a notable revelation in a recent interview on a Baltimore TV station: The folks running the Democratic presidential debates deliberately gave him less time than Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.
"The public never was told this," O'Malley told WMAR-TV's Richard Sher, "but they would tell us, 'Look, Secretary Clinton's going to get 50 percent of the questions, Senator Sanders is going to get 40 percent and you're going to get 10 percent of the questions,'" he said. "And they said, 'If you want to be heard, you're going to have to jump in on one of their questions.'"
This was borne out by the fact that the networks were clearly favoring the candidates with the higher poll numbers, but there's even more to it than that, as Mitchell S. McKinney, chairman of the department of communication at the University of Missouri, told the Baltimore Sun:
What O'Malley has noted here in terms of strategy to get more talk time is what we've found in our research. The candidate who gets more attacks in these debates - which is usually the leading candidate - gets more talk time . . . No one on the stage is usually attacking the O'Malleys of the field, so they're doubly ignored. Much more so for the primary debates, the debate rules are constructed to create a good . . . show rather than a forum that ensures any sense of equality.
The Sun, though, has tried to undermine O'Malley by insisting that his claim of getting only 10 percent of the questions isn't supported by its own analysis of the three debates that featured just him, Clinton, and Sanders; it reviewed those debates and declared that Clinton received 40 percent of the questions, Sanders 38 percent and O'Malley 22 percent. Other media outlets have noted that December debate, inconveniently scheduled as it was just before Christmas, did not in fact air opposite "Frosty the Snowman" and "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," as O'Malley has said, but aired opposite other shows. Okay, O'Malley may have misremembered the percentage numbers the debate moderators gave him, and his reference to scheduling conflicts during the holiday season was exaggerated to some extent. You can dismiss his frustrations all you want. But let's look at the big picture . . . literally. When photographs of the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination accompanied online articles about the debates between November 2015 and January 2016, in which three candidates participated (five candidates participated in the October debate), one candidate, more often than not, was missing from the photos. Guess which candidate.