Here’s How News Networks Are Covering the First 2020 Presidential Debate

By A.J. Katz Comment

The first presidential debate of the 2020 election campaign—featuring President Donald Trump and former vice president Joe Biden—takes place Tuesday at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace will moderate the first of three debates, marking the second consecutive election cycle during which the longtime newsman has earned presidential debate moderator duties.

Adweek’s David Griner wrote 4 years ago of Wallace’s 2016 performance: “He was actively engaged, thoughtful, topical and insistent. But most importantly, he represented us—the viewers and voters—with a near perfect balance of respect, candor and skepticism.”

Can Wallace replicate that performance? Remains to be seen.

Here’s how the networks are covering this historic event.

3rd presidential debate of 2016

Fox News:

  • As mentioned, the first presidential debate for 2020 will be moderated by Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace, marking the second time he will serve as moderator for a presidential debate.
  • At a network town hall held past Thursday morning, in advance of the debate, Fox News chief executive Suzanne Scott praised Wallace, all staffers, and announced that the network had been named “a great place to work” by the Great Place to Work-Certified™ Company.
  •  From 9-11 p.m. ET Special Report’s Bret Baier and The Story’s Martha MacCallum will co-anchor live coverage outside the debate venue.
  • Throughout the special, the anchors will be joined by a team of commentators for post-debate analysis, including senior political analyst Brit Hume, co-host of The Five and The Daily Briefing anchor Dana Perino, as well as co-host of The Five and political analyst Juan Williams.
  • FNC contributors Donna Brazile, Karl Rove and Katie Pavlich will also offer analysis throughout the evening.
  • Additionally, FNC will provide all Fox TV affiliates special debate coverage from Cleveland anchored by FNC’s Bill Hemmer. Stations will also have the opportunity to livestream Hemmer’s coverage on digital and social platforms without interrupting their regularly scheduled programming.
  • Debate programming began on Sunday, Sept. 27 with a special edition of Fox News Sunday guest-anchored by Brit Hume live from Cleveland.
  • Sunday will also feature special editions of Outnumbered Overtime (1 p.m. ET), America’s Newsroom with Sandra Smith (3 p.m. ET), The Five (5 p.m. ET).
  • Additionally, Baier and McCallum will co-anchor a one hour special, Fox News Democracy 2020: Debate Preview at 10 p.m. ET During the special, Wallace will preview the first presidential debate and discuss the evolution of debates as well as the impact the global pandemic will have on the election.
  • On Monday, and debate day, Tuesday, Sept. 29, Baier and MacCallum will anchor their respective programs, Special Report and The Story live from Cleveland.
  • FNC’s America’s Newsroom, The Daily Briefing, Bill Hemmer Reports, The Five and Hannity (Tuesday only) will broadcast from Cleveland, while all other programs will originate from the network’s Washington, D.C. and New York bureaus.
  • Hannity will be presented live at 11 p.m ET on Tuesday, followed by special editions of The Ingraham Angle at 12 a.m. ET, (D.C.) and Fox News @ Night with Shannon Bream at 1 a.m. ET. (New York).
  • Fox News Radio will provide live coverage of the first debate with an hour-long pre-show beginning at 8 p.m. ET.
  • FNR coverage will be led by FNR’s national correspondent Jared Halpern and FNR political analyst Josh Kraushaar and will be made available on the FNC app and heard on FNR affiliates nationwide.
  • Following the debate, The Fox News Rundown Podcast will be providing detailed analysis, available at FoxNewsPodcasts.com.
  • FNR’s nationally-syndicated Brian Kilmeade Show (9 a.m.-Noon ET), Fox Across America with Jimmy Failla (Noon-3 p.m. ET) and Guy Benson Show (3-6 p.m. ET) will be providing live reaction and analysis following the debate.
  • Fox News Headlines 24/7 will continue its Democracy 2020 updates surrounding debate coverage every 15 minutes on SiriusXM Channel 115.
  • FOX News Digital will feature regular live blogs along with the latest articles on all the developments ahead of, during and after the debate. The latest content will be available on desktop devices, tablets and the Fox News Mobile App.
  • Additionally, Fox Nation, FNC’s subscription-based streaming service, will offer a post-debate special hosted by Tomi Lahren and will feature a panel to break down the major developments of the night.

3rd presidential debate of 2016

Fox Business:

  • FBN senior vp and managing editor of business news Neil Cavuto will anchor special live coverage of the first presidential debate on Tuesday, Sept. 29.
  • Beginning at 8 p.m. ET, Cavuto will anchor a prime time special entitled Fox Business Network Presents Democracy 2020: The Presidential Debate featuring pre and post-debate analysis, as well as live coverage of the debate itself.
  • Throughout the evening, Cavuto will be joined by global markets editor and anchor of FBN’s Mornings with Maria, Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs Tonight host Lou Dobbs, Making Money with Charles Payne  host Charles Payne, Lisa Kennedy Montgomery, After the Bell  co-anchor Connell McShane and David Asman, among others.
  • In addition, FoxBusiness.com will feature live updates throughout the evening, including real-time futures and international market reaction to the debate. The platform will also livestream the debate, beginning at 9 p.m. ET.

CNN:

  • CNN’s Erin Burnett and Anderson Cooper will kick of pre-debate coverage at 7 p.m. ET.
  • At 8 p.m. ET, Cooper will be joined by Wolf Blitzer, Jake Tapper, Dana Bash, Abby Phillip and they will pick back up for post-debate coverage when the debate concludes at 10:30 p.m..
  • Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon will lead the conversation from 1-3 a.m.
  • John King will be at the Magic Wall.
  • Kaitlan Collins, Arlette Saenz, and Jessica Dean will be on the ground in Cleveland.
  • Reporting and analysis will also be provided by CNN’s Gloria Borger, Nia Malika Henderson, Jeff Zeleny and Mark Preston.
  • CNN commentators will include David Axelrod, Van Jones, Kirsten Powers, Rick Santorum, Michael Smerconish, Andrew Yang, Scott Jennings and David Gregory.
  • David Chalian will share the findings of a post-debate poll of debate watchers, and Ana Cabrera will be with a swing state voter focus group in Ohio.
  • In addition, CNN’s Daniel Dale will contribute real-time fact-checking throughout the evening.
  • DIGITAL
  • On our digital platforms, CNN’s political team will be breaking down the news live throughout the debate, with exclusive coverage and enterprise analysis on CNN’s Live Story and every screen you find CNN.
  • CNN Politics will cover every exchange between the candidates, with exclusive details delivered straight into your inbox from the teams behind What Matters, The Point with Chris Cillizza, and for our international audience Meanwhile in America, where we deliver daily analysis of US politics for global readers.
  • CNN’s team of fact checkers will point out what’s true and what’s not across all platforms and at CNN.com/FactsFirst.
  • CNN Audio is offering listeners more ways to make sense of the most consequential election of our lifetime with three new flagship political podcastsPolitically Sound, a weekly half-hour show hosted by David Chalian and Nia-Malika that looks at how the big picture of politics affects all of our lives;CNN Political Briefing, a daily show hosted by David Chalian that provides the political news listeners need in 10 minutes or less; and Election 101, a 10-part series hosted by Kristen Holmes that demystifies the American political system while offering a unique perspective on the inner workings of the electoral process.
  • CNN’s Election Center will continue to help users stay grounded in the data, candidates, key dates, exit polls and headlines from now until Election Day.
  • Last week, CNN also launched a new voter information guide to give users easy, reliable access to everything they need to know to cast their ballot for the elections. Users select the state where they are registered to vote, and the tool connects them to critical dates, deadlines and local voter resources.
  • The debate will stream live, without requiring a cable log-in, on CNN.com’s homepage and across mobile devices via CNN’s apps for iOS and Android. It can also be viewed on CNNgo (at CNN.com/go on your desktop, smartphone, and iPad and via CNNgo apps for Apple TV, Amazon Fire, Android TV, Chromecast and Roku) and will be available on demand to subscribers via cable/satellite systems, CNNgo platforms, and CNN mobile apps.

ABC:

  • Trump vs. Biden: The Main Event – A Special Edition of 20/20, kicks off coverage at 8 p.m. on ABC.
  • Chief anchor George Stephanopoulos will lead 3-hour debate coverage (8-11 p.m. ET) from New York joined by World News Tonight anchor David Muir and ABC News Live Prime anchor Linsey Davis.
  • ABC News Live, ABC’s streaming news service, will begin coverage at 7 p.m. ET on the network’s streaming news channel.
  • Following the debate, ABC News’ political team will provide context and analysis.
  • ABC News political team including Chief White House Correspondent and This Week Co-Anchor Jonathan Karl and senior congressional correspondent and lead campaign correspondent Mary Bruce reporting from Cleveland,  Nightline anchor Byron Pitts, chief global affairs correspondent and This Week co-anchor Martha Raddatz, senior White House correspondent Cecilia Vega, chief justice correspondent Pierre Thomas, World News Tonight Weekend anchor and chief national affairs correspondent Tom Llamas, senior national Correspondent Terry Moran, White House correspondent Rachel Scott, FiveThirtyEight editor-in-chief Nate Silver.
  • Special correspondent Matthew Dowd will report on the latest developments in the race and the candidates, and the issues most important to Americans.
  • Contributors Chris ChristieYvette Simpson, Rahm Emanuel, and Sara Fagen will provide analysis on the debate and campaigns.
  • ABC News Live will kick off debate coverage at 7 p.m. ET/4 PT on ABC News Live Prime with Anchor Linsey Davis taking a deep dive into the most important issues at stake in this election.
  • ABC News Live will then simulcast the debate, and immediately after, ABC News’ political roundtable will add context and analysis.
  • Earlier in the day, Anchor Diane Macedo will anchor ABC News Live Update at 9 a.m. ET/6 a.m. PT and 11 a.m. ET/8. PT,  and Your Voice Your Vote: The Breakdown, ABC News Live’s issues-oriented political program airing at 3 p.m. ET/12 p.m. PT,  along with Moran, which will preview the debate and provide analysis the following day.
  • ABC News will have digital coverage of the debate on ABCNews.com, the ABC News mobile app, and Apple News, with live updates, fact checks, key takeaways, breakout moments during the debate, and post-debate analysis. ABC News will have comprehensive digital coverage of the debate on ABCNews.com, the ABC News mobile app, and Apple News, with live updates, fact checks, key takeaways, breakout moments during the debate, and post-debate analysis.
  • New digital video brands Examined will explore voting in a pandemic, and Notified will publish content comparing Trump and Biden’s stances on issues, including COVID-19, healthcare, the economy, climate change, and racial injustice.
  • FiveThirtyEight will preview the debate on the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast and survey voters before and after the debate for an Ipsos survey.
  • During the debate, the FiveThirtyEight politics team will be live-blogging. After the event, the team will publish a post-debate episode of the Politics podcast, an analysis piece written Silver, and a post-debate Ipsos poll that looks at who voters think won the debate and how the debate changed (or didn’t change) the race.
  • ABC News’ flagship daily podcast Start Here, hosted by Brad Mielke, will preview what’s to come on debate morning and post a special edition on Sept.30. Start Here will cover all angles of the debate and feature expert reporting analysis from ABC News’ political team.
  • Powerhouse Politics podcast, hosted by Karl and political director Rick Klein, will release a special edition on Sept. 30, providing an overview and analysis of the night.
  • ABC News Radio will offer 3 hours of live, anchored coverage night of the debate, including a 1-hour pre-show, followed by debate and live post-debate analysis.
  • Correspondent Aaron Katersky  will anchor coverage with reporting and analysis by correspondent Karen Travers, political analyst Steve Roberts, Klein, deputy political director MaryAlice Parks, FiveThirtyEight’s Galen Druke, and others from ABC News’ and FiveThirtyEight’s political teams.
  • ABC News Radio will also offer multiple one-minute Status Reports throughout the night.
  • ABC NewsOne, the affiliate news service of ABC News, will provide full coverage with Multi-Platform Reporter Alex Presha reporting from the site of the debate and analysis from Klein.
  • NewsOne provides news content and services for more than 200 ABC affiliates and international news partners.
  • Marc Burstein is the senior ep of ABC News Special Events, and David Sloan is the senior ep of network prime time content.

NBC/MSNBC: 

  • Starting at 9 p.m. ET, NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt and Today co-anchor and NBC News chief legal correspondent Savannah Guthrie will anchor NBC TV coverage of the debate from NBC News Headquarters in New York.
  • Meet the Press moderator and NBC News political director Chuck Todd and NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent and senior Washington correspondent Andrea Mitchell will join them from Washington, D.C.
  • Rachel Maddow, Nicolle Wallace, Joy Reid and Brian Williams will anchor MSNBC’s special Decision 2020 coverage of the debate on Tuesday, September 29
  • Starting at 8 p.m. ET, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Nicolle Wallace and Joy Reid kick off coverage ahead of the debate live from NBC News World Headquarters in New York.
  • They will be joined by a team of MSNBC political correspondents and experts with reporting and insight throughout the night – including NBC News national political correspondent Steve Kornacki, who will be stationed at the Big Board with the latest numbers and polling data.
  • Maddow, Wallace and Reid join Williams for post-game coverage and analysis once the debate wraps at 10:30 p.m. ET.
  • NBC News and MSNBC correspondents and reporters will contribute to debate coverage and provide the latest reporting and analysis across both networks and online, including Hallie Jackson, Peter Alexander, Ali Vitali, Mike Memoli, Chris Jansing, Kate Snow, Alex Seitz-Wald and Allan Smith on the ground in Ohio.
  • NBC News Road Warriors Vaughn Hillyard and Shaquille Brewster, as well as correspondents Dasha Burns and Ellison Barber will be reporting live from battleground states across the U.S.
  • Plus, Ali Velshi will end the week by anchoring Velshi on MSNBC from Ohio with voter reactions to the first presidential debate.
  • NBC News Now will provide debate coverage for free, including a pre-show hosted by Chuck Todd, and joined by Kasie Hunt, at 8 p.m. ET, available to stream live and on demand across OTT platforms, including Peacock, NBCUniversal’s new streaming service.
  • The NBC News digital politics team will live blog the debate with minute-by-minute updates, highlights and takeaways. The live blog will feature debate analysis from Jonathan Allen and fact checks by Jane C. Timm and Adam Edelman.
  • The NBC News Stay Tuned team will cover the most important moments and will partner with Snapchat to create near-live highlights of the debates. The dynamically updating episodes will be an edited Highlights Show from the key election events within Stay Tuned’s channel.
  • The NBC News Data Graphics team will be tracking topics covered throughout the debates in a digital interactive, in addition to their continuously updated interactives on voting, polling, early results, user predictor tools and more.
  • NBC News Now will provide debate coverage for free, including a pre-show hosted by Chuck Todd, and joined by Kasie Hunt, at 8 p.m. ET, available to stream live and on demand across OTT platforms, including Peacock, NBCUniversal’s new streaming service.
  • The NBC News digital politics team will live blog the debate with minute-by-minute updates, highlights and takeaways. The live blog will feature debate analysis from Jonathan Allen and fact checks by Jane C. Timm and Adam Edelman.
  • The NBC News Stay Tuned team will cover the most important moments and will partner with Snapchat to create near-live highlights of the debates. The dynamically updating episodes will be an edited Highlights Show from the key election events within Stay Tuned’s channel.
  • The NBC News Data Graphics team will be tracking topics covered throughout the debates in a digital interactive, in addition to their continuously updated interactives on voting, polling, early results, user predictor tools and more.

CBS:

  • CBS News will air each debate live in full and follow up with analysis and on-the-ground reporting.
  • The live, prime time coverage for each debate will air from 9-11 p.m. ET led by CBS Evening News anchor and managing editor Norah O’Donnell from Washington.
  • CBS This Morning co-host Gayle King and 60 Minutes correspondent and CBS News senior political analyst John Dickerson will join O’Donnell for the coverage.
  • Former senior advisor to President Obama Valerie Jarrett and CBS News contributor and President Trump’s former chief of staff Reince Priebus will offer insight and analysis.
  • CBS News political correspondent Ed O’Keefe will continue his coverage of the Biden campaign and report from the debate host cities. CBS News White House correspondents Weijia Jiang, Paula Reid, and Ben Tracy will report from the White House
  • CBSN, CBS News’ free 24/7 streaming news service, will provide coverage of each presidential debate and the vice presidential debate starting at 5 p.m. ET each night, with Red & Blue followed by a debate pre-show at 8:30 p .m. ET.
  • The platform will stream the debates live and will follow with a post-show at 11 p.m. ET.
  • All coverage will be anchored by CBSN’s Elaine Quijano with guests in studio and on the ground, including CBSN political reporter Caitlin Huey-Burns who will report from the field.
  • The debate dates and locations are:
    • First presidential debate – Sept. 29 in Cleveland, Ohio
    • Vice presidential debate – Oct. 7 in Salt Lake City, Utah
    • Second presidential debate – Oct. 15 in Miami, Fla.
    • Third presidential debate – Oct. 22 in Nashville, Tenn.
  • CBS News’ coverage of the debates is part of the Network’s comprehensive America Decides: 2020 election coverage.
  • CBS News unveiled earlier this week a new voter integrity unit led by chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett to look at voting issues, including changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, an influx of mail-in voting and a potential delay in results.
  • CBS News chief justice and homeland security correspondent Jeff Pegues will lead the coverage of misinformation and provide investigative reporting on the misinformation aimed at compromising democracy both by domestic actors and foreign interference.
  • The network will also have a wide range of reports listening to voters from battleground states and throughout the country. In addition to this original reporting, the CBS News Battleground Tracker will help explain what Americans are thinking and use state-of-the-art models to show how candidates stand in every state.

C-SPAN:

  • C-SPAN will have live coverage of all presidential and vice presidential debates beginning at 9pm ET live on C-SPAN, C-SPAN Radio and C-SPAN.org.
  • Following the debates the channel will open its phones for viewer calls and reaction.
  • For additional Campaign 2020 information and archived video from past presidential debates, visit C-SPAN’s special debate page here – https://www.c-span.org/debates/

Telemundo:

  • Noticias Telemundo announced its multiplatform coverage of the first presidential debate set to take place on Tuesday, Sept. 29.
  • The coverage includes pre- and post-debate news and analysis, fact checks and a live blog with minute-to-minute updates and key takeaways by Noticias Telemundo’s digital news team.
    Network anchors José Díaz-Balart and Felicidad Aveleyra will anchor Noticias Telemundo’s special Decision 2020 coverage, along with Julio Vaqueiro and Vanessa Hauc.
  • Senior Washington correspondent Cristina Londoño will report live from the Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, the site of the first debate.
  • Coverage will begin at 8 p.m/7 p.m. CT/5 p.m. PT with a one-hour pre-debate show featuring reporting and analysis about the current state of play of the presidential race, the role of the Latino vote and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic among other issues.

Univision:

  • Univision News announces its special coverage for the first presidential debate of the 2020 electoral season in the U.S. El Primer Debate (The First Debate) to air live on Tuesday, Sept. 29 from 8:55 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET.
  • Univision News will air and livestream the debate with simultaneous Spanish-language translation.
  • The special TV coverage will be moderated by Univision News anchors Ilia Calderón and Jorge Ramos who will be joined by political experts, including:
    • Luis Miranda Jr., Democratic political analyst, founding member of The MirRam Group and Board Chair of Latino Victory, a grassroots organization that supports Biden’s presidential candidacy.
    • Jesús Márquez, Republican political analyst, radio personality and Latinos for Trump Advisory Board Co-Chairman.
    • Rosario Marín, Former Treasurer of the United States who served under President George W. Bush and now supports Biden’s presidential candidacy.
  • Univision News anchor Patricia Janiot will bring viewers the minute by minute fact-checking of the candidates statements, which will be verified in real-time by the Univision team that runs ‘elDetector’, Univision’s data-checking platform.
  • Viewers will also be able to interact directly with the FactCHAT bot through a WhatsApp chat and consult on the statements and data during the debate.
  • Univision’s White House Correspondent Janet Rodriguez will be reporting from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, where the debate will be taking place on Tuesday.
  • In addition, UnivisionNoticias.com will have a pre-debate special edition of Politiqueando with Univision’s Senior Politics Editor Carlos Chirinos from 8:30 p.m. to 8:55 p.m. ET.
  • UnivisionNoticias.com will also have a live blog, special content on its politics site Destino 2020 and fact checking on elDetector.

PBS NewsHour:

  • PBS NewsHour will broadcast live coverage of the 2020 Presidential debates between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden from 9 – 11 pm ET on Sept. 29, Oct. 15 and Oct. 22 on PBS stations nationwide.
  • NewsHour will also cover the Vice Presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic Vice President nominee Senator Kamala Harris on Wednesday, October 7, 9 – 11 pm ET.
  • The special coverage will be anchored by managing editor Judy Woodruff and include contributions from PBS NewsHour senior national correspondent Amna Nawaz, White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, Capitol Hill correspondent Lisa Desjardins and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report, among others.
  • Nawaz will engage with a panel of voters to discuss their impressions of each debate.
  • Expected guests include:
    • Gary Abernathy (9/29 and 10/22)
      The Washington Post, contributing columnist
    • Cynthia Tucker (9/29 and 10/22)
      Syndicated columnist
    • Eliana Johnson (10/7 and 10/15)
      Free Beacon, editor-in-chief
    • Patricia Lopez (10/15)
      Minneapolis Star Tribune, editorial writer
  • In addition to its broadcast on PBS stations, the program will stream at pbs.org/newshour and pbs.org; on PBS NewsHour’s Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter; and on the PBS Video App (available on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast and Smart TVs).

Bloomberg:

  • Bloomberg Television and Radio will present a special simulcast, Bloomberg Balance of Power: Special Coverage of the First Presidential Debate, from 8:30pm ET – 11pm ET, providing full coverage and analysis of the debate.
  • The broadcast will be anchored by Bloomberg’s David Westin, and will feature political contributors Jeanne Zaino and Rick Davis, as well as historian Barbara Perry from the University of Virginia and noted pollster Frank Luntz. Chief Washington Correspondent Kevin Cirilli will report from the debate site.
  • Bloomberg.com will run a live blog of the debate, providing real-time coverage, updates and analysis throughout the night.
  • Bloomberg News will be checking the facts on topics such as the economy, Covid-19, election integrity, the Supreme Court and more.
  • Bloomberg QuickTake will live-stream the debate and cover key moments across all of its social platforms.

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