How Toronto's Papers Covered The First Trump vs. Clinton Debate
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How Toronto’s Papers Covered The First Trump vs. Clinton Debate

Make Joe Warmington's hats great again also.

In Front Page Challenge, Torontoist analyzes the best and worst of Toronto’s major dailies.

The first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton took place last night, with an estimated 100 million American viewers (and more than a few Canadians) tuning into this long-awaited matchup.

Five nanoseconds after the debate concluded, pundits tried to determine the winner of the debate, aided or abetted by the rival spin machines of the candidates. In a close debate you can generally tell who won by which campaign is the first to complain about how the debate was conducted; by this measure, it seems Trump lost (he was also the only candidate who toured the spin room, generally the loser’s move, and his spokespeople on CNN griped about the unfairness of the moderator’s questions).

Toronto’s five dailies all feature the debate on today’s page one, but which paper will be declared the winner of this week’s historic Front Page Challenge?


globe sept 27
The Globe and Mail


The Globe goes for the classic “historical record” approach to its debate coverage. One would not immediately be able to determine the winner based on the photo (the two candidates set against the enormity of the debate stage) or headline “Clinton, Trump offer up starkly different visions in tense debate“. But John Ibbitson‘s column gives Clinton the victory, or more to the point, marks Trump as the definitive loser: “Could an honestly uncommitted voter, could any reasonable person, conclude after Monday night’s debate that America would be in better hands with Mr. Trump as president? No. That conclusion is simply not possible based on the evidence.” John Doyle’s arts column uses a Marshall McLuhan-esque yardstick to measure Trump’s debate performance and determines that in the cool medium of TV, Trump came off to viewers as too hot: “Trump failed to grasp that on television any man can look menacing if he gives the faintest sign of being a bully. On TV, in the camera’s unnerving eye, that’s weakness.”


post sept 27
National Post


The Post‘s front page is non-committal as to who won the debate, going for closeup photos of the candidates from the debate stage and describing the clash as a “feisty first confrontation.” Kelly McParland’s opinion piece wonders whether the fact that Trump didn’t fare well in a head-to-head with Clinton will make a difference at this point, since many of his liabilities are common knowledge and indeed a large part of what got him this far in the process: “A more cutthroat politician than Clinton would have skewered him a dozen times and left him for dead, but Hillary Clinton is not good at delivering a knock-out punch.”


star sept 27
Toronto Star


The Star gives the vast majority of the front page to “Round One” of the Trump/Clinton debates, with a centrepiece summary from Daniel Dale that gives the edge to Clinton. The article cites Trump’s numerous debate lies and identifies two quotes from Trump as potentially damaging gaffes, and sure to be exploited by his critics: “When Clinton noted that he cheered for the housing crisis because it could present a money-making opportunity for himself, he said, ‘That’s called business.’ And when Clinton pointed out that he paid no income tax in some years, he said, ‘That makes me smart.’” The Star also finds room on the front page to cover a brewing battle at city hall over a proposed redrawing of ward boundaries (the most contentious one being half of the Beach being incorporated into a new ward comprised mostly of southwestern Scarborough), as well as coverage of the on-field brawl at last night’s Jays versus Yankees series finale.


metro sept 27
Metro Toronto


Metro is the only one of today’s Toronto papers that explicitly declares a winner in last night’s debate with their banner headline “Hello, Ms. President,” stating “Clinton trounces Trump on race, taxes and even jokes.” Rosemary Westwood’s summary of the clash crowns Clinton as “the only adult on the debate stage last night. And she absolutely slayed.” But the main story this morning is local: “The Eviction Economy” details a tenant who is fighting his eviction, saying the landlord intends to convert his apartment into a more lucrative short-term Airbnb rental, a growing concern in the city’s already-stretched housing market.


sun sept 27
Toronto Sun


The Sun tends to frame big political debates in sports analogies and today’s front page keeps with this tradition; “FIGHT NIGHT” depicts the clash as a “nasty” affair. In terms of the paper’s question “Who Won?”, one can assume the Sun begrudgingly admits Clinton prevailed, as the ideologically conservative paper wouldn’t have run such an “impartial” cover if Trump had mopped the floor with his opponent. A pair of fascinating articles within the paper underline this theory. Mark Bonokoski’s opinion piece gives the victory to “The Donald” because the whole thing was unfair, with a “Liberal” debate moderator (fact-check: moderator Lester Holt is a registered Republican) and a “Liberal” media calling Trump a threat to the Republic on the eve of the debate as proof that the fix was in. Bonokoski insists Trump “somewhat succeeded” just by showing up, adding: “Hillary Clinton held her own in this debate, but this was expected because she is who she is—an experienced politician with a long and extraordinary history. Trump, on the other hand, has never spent a single day as an elected politician. For that reason alone, he won the day.” On the other hand, Night Scrawler Joe Warmington, who has repeatedly insisted he has no preference between Trump or Clinton, crashed last night’s Democrats Abroad debate viewing party at Pauper’s Pub on Bloor Street wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, and lived to tell the tale. He admitted some of the liberals in attendance were actually even nice to him! Scrawler offers his considered opinion of how the debate combatants fared: “Hillary attacked Trump on all his delicate issues brilliantly throughout. but (sic) Trump didn’t lose his cool and looked presidential. I give the debate win to Hillary, but only by a hair. She set brilliant traps for Trump, who stayed on then (sic) defensive too long while he didn’t lay many heavy gloves on her on many of her own weak points.” He ends the piece by repeating his past claim that either candidate would make a fine president, adding a classic paean to civility, and yes, even democracy: “There’s no need to call people names or look down on people for who they support. Where (sic) whatever hat you want. What’s (sic) a great night watching the debate with all the Hillary supporters. This is freedom on display.”


This week’s winner: The Sun wins for their eye-catching, scrapbook-appropriate “impartial” cover and the weirdness of Joe Warmington crashing a Democrat viewing party wearing a Trump hat. This victory puts them back in the lead in this column’s weekly standings.

Newspaper Number of Wins
Toronto Sun 13
Metro 12
Toronto Star 10
Globe and Mail 7
National Post 6


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