The final 2016 debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump gave voters much to think about. That was the night Clinton admitted that she was willing to engage in a proxy war with Russia in Syria. For his part, Trump highlighted Clinton’s radical support of abortion through all nine months of pregnancy, a charge she could not deny.
But media coverage in the days that followed focused almost exclusively on Trump’s response to a question posed by moderator Chris Wallace, a Fox News host. Asked if he would “absolutely accept the result of this election,” Trump said — and you may want to sit down for this one — “I will look at it at the time.”
For context, Trump had been talking about election-rigging for months, made easier by the confirmation that Democrats had rigged their primary election against Bernie Sanders for Clinton. During the GOP primary, Trump tended to complain about rigging in contests he lost.
In his debate answer, Trump expressed concern about how the media corruption might make the results unfair and about the lack of voter roll integrity. In the days prior to the debate, Clinton operatives had been caught favorably discussing vote fraud and instigating violence to shut down political events.
Seeking an anti-Trump narrative, the media agreed to make this the headline for the crucial next 72 hours of the closing days of the 2016 campaign.