The Politics Behind The Debate Moderator Choices

By Alex Weprin 

The New York TimesBrian Stelter has a great item examining the politics behind the selection of Presidential debate moderators. We already wrote about Univision’s complaint, but there is a lot that goes into the selection of moderators. There are a lot of good nuggets of information in the story, but a few stood out to me.

On selecting a moderator from Fox News:

Fox News, which is the only independent television network that has not been selected to have one of its anchors host a debate, made an aggressive push this year. The commission sent signals that the network was in strong contention, people familiar with the process said, but that changed in the last month. The Obama campaign raised questions about the network because of its conservative leanings. The Romney campaign objected to MSNBC because of its liberal bent and threatened to boycott if one of its anchors was selected.

The kicker however involved Jim Lehrer, who swore that he would not moderate another Presidential debate, and has effectively retired from “PBS NewsHour.” Lehrer’s name was announced during “NewsHour’s” morning editorial meeting, which was being led by Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff:

In the suddenly gloomy meeting, some wondered if the list was legitimate. Others murmured that the selection of Mr. Lehrer was a setback for the “NewsHour,” which has been trying to show off younger stars like Ms. Ifill. Ms. Ifill, in particular, was livid, according to several people present. “I was indeed disappointed,” she confirmed Friday.