ABC chose a debate moderator who hates Trump
Before the third presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in October 2016, Fox News anchor Chris Wallace said, “If people say, ‘it was a great debate and I don’t remember you being there,’ I will have done my job.”
“The most important advice I can give to a moderator is this: Remember that nobody goes to a ballgame to watch the umpire,” said former CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer, who moderated presidential debates in 2004, 2008 and 2012. “We’re not electing a national moderator; we’re electing a president. If you keep that in mind, the whole thing gets easier.”
Unfortunately, in the minds of those making the big decisions around who gets to moderate presidential debates these days, the sentiment of staying impartial and largely invisible coming from pros like Wallace and Schieffer no longer exists. That’s clear from the decisions made by NBC, CNN and ABC regarding their choice of debate moderators for this year’s primary debates thus far.
In June, NBC/MSNBC decided it was an excellent idea to have Rachel Maddow, a partisan opinion host, serve as a moderator for its two-night event in Miami. You may recall the network caught considerable blowback in 2016 for its decision to do the same for a debate between Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) after Maddow went on stage and hugged each of the candidates — with the cameras still rolling and millions watching at home.
If you ever had curiosity around what the apocalypse will look like, try to imagine a world where Fox’s Martha MacCallum went up on stage and hugged President Trump. Or attempt to picture Sean Hannity being tapped by Fox to moderate a GOP presidential debate. And then try to imagine the reaction. It’s downright cataclysmic.
In July, it was more of the same from CNN after Don Lemon, arguably the most anti-Trump of the network’s anchors, was called upon to moderate the network’s Democratic debates from Detroit. And on cue, Lemon proceeded to call the president a racist, as he does on his program on a nightly basis.
Now we come to September, where ABC gets its shot. Among its roster of reporters is Jonathan Karl, who currently serves as head of the White House Correspondents Association. But Karl was passed over for Jorge Ramos of Univision.
As you’re likely aware, Ramos is not impartial. He’s an opinion-maker, particularly on immigration — and an activist. This 2015 Washington Post feature says it all in the headline, “Jorge Ramos: Part journalist, part activist, and now full-on Trump combatant.”
In 2016, Ramos wrote an essay in Time that notes, “It doesn’t matter who you are — a journalist, a politician or a voter — we’ll all be judged by how we responded to Donald Trump. Like it or not, this election is a plebiscite on the most divisive, polarizing and disrupting figure in American politics in decades. And neutrality is not an option.”
Or just take Ramos’ word for it in his 2018 book “Stranger.”
“I’m completely convinced that on certain issues you have to take a stand. You can’t remain neutral. … I’m an immigrant and immigrants are under attack. I cannot remain silent,” he wrote.
Contrast Ramos’s words with Jim Lehrer, 12-time presidential debate moderator in 2016: “The moderator is not there to show off how smart, or tough he or she is. The more a moderator can stay out of it and facilitate the discussion between the candidates, the better off everybody is going to be.”
ABC News knows who Jorge Ramos is. They know he’ll be partisan during its nationally-televised Democratic debates next month. He’ll likely speak of Trump in the most prejudiced manner possible. His questions regarding border security, ICE and law enforcement will likely be skewed. He’ll likely use the stage in an attempt to make himself the story.
Perhaps ABC just doesn’t care.
Because in a world where opinion is increasingly presented as fact, the sentiment shared by the truly accomplished like Wallace, Schieffer and Lehrer is sadly becoming increasingly extinct.