Keith Olbermann on Moderating Presidential Debates: ‘You Can’t Win’

During Facebook Live chat, Olbermann recalled his experience at Soldier Field in 2007.

During a Facebook Live chat today, GQ special correspondent Keith Olbermann hinted that hosting a presidential election or primary debate is much like hosting the Oscars. The nature of the job is bigger than any individual’s talents, and ultimately, a large chunk of the audience will be displeased. As is the case with Lester Holt following Monday’s Hofstra University event.

Joining Olbermann for the lunchtime half-hour discussion was GQ editor in chief Jim Nelson. Or, as Olbermann comically introduced him, “the latest in a long series of my bosses.” To which Nelson playfully added, “It’s going well so far.”

In 2007, Olbermann moderated a special AFL-CIO primary debate at Soldier Field in Chicago. Among the seven Democratic candidates participating were Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards and Joe Biden.

“There were 30,000 union guys [in the audience] who’d already had their first drink of the night,” Olbermann recalled of that August night in 2007. “You can’t win, and the best you can hope for is mild complaining afterwards. And ‘It’s his fault that I didn’t do well’ is going to come from one of the sides.”

“If you can imagine what this is like… It is like being in a kaleidoscope, at the exact center point. Where you can see everything that’s swirling around you, being in that chair. And I had, essentially, seven friendly rivals who were not in the blood end of the thing… So I think under the circumstances, Lester did one of the better jobs in a couple of years.”