Gwen Ifill Apologizes for ‘Loud,’ ‘Erratic’ Debate on Mosque

By Alex Weprin 

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Here is something you probably won’t see on the cable news channels anytime soon, an anchor apologizing to viewers because a debate got loud and heated.

In this case the debate was about the proposed Muslim community center and Mosque located in lower Manhattan, not far from Ground Zero, and it took place during “NewsHour” on PBS.

Gwen Ifill moderated the discussion between New York gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio and Teaneck, New Jersey mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin.

It was not pretty, with both men mostly talking over one another, and Ifill failing to corral them, due in large part to the fact that they both appeared visa satellite.

While that is par for the course on the cable news channels, Ifill felt the need to take to her PBS blog and apologize to viewers, calling the segment an “unplanned aberration”:

There are plenty of places where this would have been considered entertaining television. The NewsHour is not one of them…

In the end, I was sorely disappointed, not only because of the din. Discussion segments do not always live up to expectation. But in this case, I think we lost the opportunity to tell an interesting story well.

I don’t know how many times I’ve told college audiences and aspiring journalists that the NewsHour prizes light over heat. That didn’t happen last Monday, and for that I apologize.

Watch the debate yourself below.