NEWS
11/03/2018 16:30 EDT | Updated 11/04/2018 16:15 EST

Munk Debates Incorrectly Declares Steve Bannon Winner After Technical Glitch

Oops.

Steve Bannon, former chairman of Breitbart and former Trump political strategist, gestures as he speaks during an interview at the Bloomberg Invest London event in London on Oct. 10, 2018.
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Steve Bannon, former chairman of Breitbart and former Trump political strategist, gestures as he speaks during an interview at the Bloomberg Invest London event in London on Oct. 10, 2018.

Toronto hosted a controversial Munk Debate with ex-Trump strategist Steve Bannon and conservative commentator David Frum on Friday night.

The event saw plenty of controversy, including protestors delaying the start time and people being pepper-sprayed and arrested by police.

But it was the end of the debate that possibly created the most drama, when Bannon was declared the victor, seemingly having converted half the room to his side of things, much to the confusion of many watching both in person and online.

Except he didn't, as the Munk Debates hastily cleared up afterwards.

Incorrect results had been announced on stage at the end of the night, the result of a miscommunication and technical glitch that stemmed from a new electronic polling system.

"This is the first time that we used a real-time electronic voting method. In the past we used paper ballots so I think unfortunately, I think it's just a result of behind-the-scenes confusion," Rudyard Griffiths, chair of the Munk Debates, told HuffPost Canada.

Griffiths said the organization was doing its best to ensure the real results were publicized widely. The correct numbers were posted minutes after the event ended, on both social media and the Munk Debates website.

Griffiths said none of the data was lost. He also said the Munk Debates' 50,000 members were emailed the results.

"This was an unfortunate error. Complex live events, errors happen. We regret it, we apologize and we look forward to rectifying it in our next debate."

Seventy-two per cent of the room was against the debate's resolution ("be it resolved, the future of western politics is populist not liberal"), which Bannon was arguing in favour of — only 28 per cent were in support, virtually the same number of people on both sides before the debate started.

The result of 57 per cent in favour and 43 per cent against that had originally been announced was actually the percentage of the crowd open to changing their opinions, Griffiths explained. That slide had incorrectly been brought up again when it became time to announce the debate's winner by the operator controlling the screens, instead of the actual result slide.

One of the concerns expressed online was that the initial debate results would be used for political gains, particularly in the U.S., where Bannon continues to be a popular figure among the alt-right, a U.S.-based offshoot of conservatism that combines elements of racism, white nationalism and populism.

Griffiths also pointed out that the polls on the Munk Debates' website, which asked the same questions to online debate viewers, reflected similar results about people changing their minds. Eighty-eight per cent of online viewers said their opinions remained unchanged.

"We're going to be conducting a detailed review just to identify where exactly the error occurred and we'll be taking steps to ensure that the system that we have in place will get the right results up on screens at the end of the debate using a live voting system."

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