Asked directly whether he would accept the results of November’s election, Donald Trump failed to commit to conceding if he loses, going against a centuries-old tradition that dates back to the first transfer of power between rival political parties under the new Constitution, in 1800.
“I will look at it at the time. I’m not looking at anything now, I will look at it at the time,” Trump said during the final presidential debate. “What I’ve seen, what I’ve seen is so bad. First of all, the media is so dishonest and so corrupt. And the pile-on is so amazing.”
He then said the media has “poisoned the minds of voters.”
“If you look at your voter rolls, you will see millions of people that are registered to vote,” he continued, claiming to cite a “Pew report.” “Millions of people that are registered to vote that shouldn’t be registered to vote.”
Pressed by moderator Chris Wallace on not accepting “one of the prides of this country… the peaceful transition of power,” Trump said of his acceptance of the election results: “I will tell you at the time. I will keep you in suspense, okay?”
Hillary Clinton called Trump’s response “horrifying.”
President Obama criticized Trump’s undermining of the electoral process during a joint press conference Wednesday with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
“If he got the most votes, then it would be my expectation of Hillary Clinton to offer a gracious concession speech and pledge to work with him in order to make sure the American people benefit from an American government, and it would be my job to welcome Mr. Trump, regardless of what he said about me or my differences with him on my opinions, and escort him over to the Capitol, in which there would be a peaceful transfer of power,” Obama said.
Trump’s debate answer is the culmination of weeks him claiming, without evidence, that November’s election would be rigged.
The “Pew report” to which Trump seemingly referred, published in 2012, found that “approximately 24 million—one of every eight—voter registrations in the United States are no longer valid or are significantly inaccurate” and that “more than 1.8 million deceased individuals are listed as voters.”
However, there is little evidence that these inaccurate or outdated registrations lead to voter fraud. A report from FactCheck.org on Trump’s reference of that study in a speech on Oct. 17, and in a press release the next day found that “voter fraud involving ballots cast on behalf of deceased voters is rare,” and that the Pew study urged for “upgraded voter registration systems,” but was not alarmist about fraud.
The Brennan Center for Justice found that a voter is more likely to be struck by lightning than impersonate another voter. And the Washington Post found just 31 credible cases of voter impersonation—the kind that would be addressed by voter ID laws—in over a billion votes cast between 2000 and 2014.
This post has been updated.