Presidential races

Debate moderators won’t be chosen until ‘end of August at the earliest’

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The first presidential debate is just over a month away, but don’t expect to find out who will moderate it anytime soon.

Official selections for moderators won’t come until “the end of August at the earliest,” Mike McCurry,  co-chairman of Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), told The Hill. 

{mosads}McCurry, the press secretary for President Bill Clinton from 1994 to 1998, said the commission prefers to spread the selections across several television networks. 

“Except PBS, [the networks] are all members of the network pool which works closely with the CPD to do the debates,” McCurry explained.  

“So, yes, we do feel some obligation to spread the wealth. But the main criteria is what is in the best educational interests of the American voter.” 

The nonprofit CPD bills itself as nonpartisan, having sponsored all of the presidential debates since 1988.  

Its board of directors includes former Republican Sens. John Danforth and Olympia Snowe, former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, newsmen Charles Gibson and Jim Lehrer, and other prominent figures from politics and journalism. 

Frank Fahrenkopf, who headed the Republican National Committee from 1983 to 1989, serves as co-chairman with McCurry. 

The commission notes in its overview that extensive experience in live television broadcast news is needed in order to be considered for a moderator role. 

Asked whether the commission was open to using a news reporter from print or web journalism as a debate moderator, McCurry said no. 

“[The commission] would love to, but the technical aspects of anchoring a live broadcast has steered us towards broadcast reporters.”

The commission also says it does “not meet with the campaigns, nor do the campaigns have a role in moderator selection.” 

NBC’s Lester Holt, CBS’s John Dickerson, Fox News’s Chris Wallace and Megyn Kelly, ABC’s Martha Raddatz and Jonathan Karl, and CNN’s Jake Tapper and Dana Bash are the names most consistently mentioned as likely moderators. 

GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump, who is often combative with the media, told radio host Hugh Hewitt in a recent interview that selecting Holt wouldn’t be an issue. 

“I think Lester Holt is a good guy,” Trump said when asked who he thought would be a fair moderator. Trump also told Time magazine earlier this month that “certain moderators would be unacceptable.”  

Trump backed out of two debates during the primaries scheduled to air on Fox News, primarily because of the presence of Megyn Kelly, whom he has publicly criticized since the two sparred during first GOP primary debate last August. 

Hillary Clinton has not commented on the moderator selection process. Her campaign chairman, John Podesta, said she “looks forward to participating in all three presidential debates scheduled by the independent debate commission.”

The first presidential debate is scheduled for Sept. 26 in Hempstead, N.Y.

Tags Bill Clinton Donald Trump Hillary Clinton

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