The 2016 presidential and vice presidential debates have already been notable for their bias, with NBC’s Lester Holt pounding Donald Trump with a skewed set of questions during the first debate, and CBS’s Elaine Quijano doing the same with Mike Pence on Tuesday. So what should viewers expect at tomorrow night’s town hall-style debate? A look at the past six town hall debates finds — with one exception — each of the moderators has favored calling on audience members who planned to ask liberal-themed questions.
With the first presidential debate right around the corner CNN’s Brian Stelter amped up his call for debate moderators to be fact-checkers, during Sunday’s Reliable Sources. Of course, most of his concern is focused on Donald Trump with Hillary Clinton being an afterthought, seeing as he lambasted NBC’s Matt Lauer for not doing it. “Does a unique candidate like Donald Trump require a different kind of moderating,” Stelter inquired to veteran debate moderator Jim Lehrer.
Appearing as a guest on Sunday's Reliable Sources on CNN, former PBS NewsHour anchor Jim Lehrer -- known for moderating a number of general election presidential debates in the past -- declared that he watches both CNN and MSNBC "a lot," but did not mention Fox News as part of his "well-rounded news diet."
When this NewsBuster began preparing today's item, the focus was going to be on Joe Scarborough's statement on today's Morning Joe that "90% of the people in our business vote for Democrats and Democratic primaries." Not that it was something we didn't already know [though query whether even 10% of MSMers are Republicans], but refreshing to hear it so starkly stated.
But preparing the video clip, something more stunning emerged. Scarborough actually suggested that the problem of biased debate moderators is something new: "this is not something we've had a problem with in the past." Say what? Do the names George Stephanopoulos and Candy Crowley ring a bell, just to cite two examples of outrageous moderator bias from the last presidential cycle?
Still stinging from the large number of primary debates that often changed the momentum from one Republican candidate to another during the 2012 presidential contest and liberal moderators who all asked questions that favored Democratic incumbent Barack Obama over GOP candidate Mitt Romney, Republican officials are “quietly advancing a new batch of rules aimed at streamlining” what they call a chaotic nominating process.
Those claims are taken from an article written by CNN's Peter Hamby, who stated he received information from “multiple GOP sources” that “handpicked members of the Republican National Committee” have been working with party chairman Reince Priebus in Washington, D.C., since August to sanction “a small handful of debates” in which party officials will have “a heavy appetite” for a much stronger say over who will moderate any encounters of presidential candidates.
Over the years, we’ve written a lot about long, slow ratings collapse of broadcast news. But ABC, CBS, and NBC aren’t the only ones experiencing this decline. As reported by David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun, the ratings for PBS NewsHour show are almost in a freefall, even compared to their commercial competitors.
By its own count, NewsHour had 2.5 million viewers in 2005. This year the show is at 1.3 million. That’s an astonishing drop, nearly 50 percent, unmatched by any of the commercial broadcast evening news shows.
In a recent interview with Salon, MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell candidly revealed just how much he dislikes his current job as the host of MSNBC's prime-time commentary show The Last Word. In fact, the former actor who just so happens to have a cameo in the new movie Olympus Has Fallen as a news anchor admitted that he still has no idea what he's doing.
O'Donnell had recurring roles in the past on TV dramas like HBO's Big Love, USA's Monk, and NBC's The West Wing, writing and producing the latter as well. When comparing the two experiences, he said working for a cable news network is "tragic" for him. And the very thought of doing his show with an unrehearsed first draft every night is just "horrendous" and "offends (his) artistic sensibilities in some ways," he explained.
PBS journalist Jim Lehrer chastised CNN's Candy Crowley for the assistance she provided Barack Obama during his presidential debate with Mitt Romney. Lehrer appeared at the Clinton School of Public Service on November 13 and critiqued, "As a general premise, I believe debate moderators are not there as fact-checkers...They are there to facilitate the exchange between the candidates."
Washington Examiner columnist Paul Bedard highlighted the "rebuke" of Crowley. Describing the role of a presidential moderator, Lehrer insisted, "You have to put a different cloak on, over your mind and your mouth and everything else. When you moderate something, you are a moderator, you are not functioning in a journalistic capacity." During her October 16 debate, Crowley famously– and incorrectly– backed up Obama's claim that he had referred to the attack in Libya as a terrorist act.
Tonight’s town hall-style presidential debate will ostensibly feature questions from undecided voters, but the evening’s agenda will really be decided by the moderator, as CNN’s Candy Crowley will select which of the more than roughly 80 voters in the room will actually get a chance to talk to the candidates.
Reviewing the five previous town hall debates, the journalist-moderators have tended to skew the agenda of these so-called citizen forums to the liberal side of the spectrum, but not always. Overall, questions have been twice as likely to favor liberal causes versus conservative ones.
It is one thing to trash Jim Lehrer’s moderating behind his back. It’s even worse when you then bring him on your show to praise his performance after you trash him. No one does this better than Morning Joe’s Scarborough who did a complete 180 on his analysis of Lehrer’s moderating skills.
On the morning after the first presidential debate, Scarborough claimed that “Jim Lehrer got rolled over” as moderator on October 3rd. Fast forward to Monday’s Morning Joe when Lehrer appeared in person and Scarborough had suddenly wiped his hands clean of any such criticism. [See video below break. MP3 audio here.]
This past week's presidential debate put at least two Kossacks in mind of throwing punches and caused another to reflect upon which group Republicans hate more: women or those who pay no income taxes.
And why do leftists hate all the liberal debate moderators, like first-timer Candy Crowley of CNN? As usual, each headline is preceded by the blogger's name or pseudonym.
As Matt Vespa at NewsBusters noted earlier this morning, MSNBC's Howard Fineman was extremely unhappy with Jim Lehrer's performance as moderator in last night's first presidential debate. Vespa reports that Fineman "seemed agitated to the point of calling Lehrer 'useless' and equated his moderating of the debate to 'criminal negligence.'"
In what may be seen as a surprise, the same network's Laurence O'Donnell didn't share that sentiment, as Mackenzie Weinger reported this morning at Politico: