How many more broadcast bust-ups will it take before America finally decides to make its presidential election debates tolerable again? I can’t take it anymore. Can you?
For the past three cycles — 2008, 2012, and 2016 — I’ve chronicled the depressing, systemic bias of left-leaning partisans whom the Commission on Presidential Debates routinely installs as “moderators.” It would be one thing if these activists posing as journalists were upfront about their political preferences. But they continue to star in phony debate theater wearing their dime-store costumes of objectivity.
The even bigger farce? Masochistic Republican Party bosses let them get away with it year after year after year.
Note to President Obama: This is not “whining.” This is truth-telling. I find it rather rich that the complainer-in-chief who spent two terms incessantly attacking Fox News and conservative talk radio is now wagging his waggy-licious finger at anyone else who bears grievances against hostile media and its enablers.
In 2008, the Commission on Presidential Debates allowed liberal PBS anchor Gwen Ifill to serve as unfettered moderator for the sole vice presidential debate. As I reported at the time, Ifill had failed to disclose before the event that she had a book coming out on Jan. 20, 2009 — a date that just happens to coincide with the inauguration of the next president of the United States — titled “Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.” The promotional material left no question about Ifill’s perspective. She hyped Obama’s campaign as “stunning” and marveled at his “bold new path to political power.” She also used her access to author a hagiographic pop culture piece for Essence magazine about the Obama family.
When asked to respond to criticize about her ideological and financial conflicts of interest, Ifill acted like a true-blue leftist and played the race card.
This year’s vice presidential debate “moderator” didn’t fare much better. Billed as a “historic” choice because of her Filipino heritage, Elaine Quijano was a historic doormat for Clinton’s babbling running mate, Tim Kaine. Her media cheerleaders, led by The New York Times’ Nick Kristof, naturally invoked the gender card to defend her embarrassing passivity.
Another “diversity” moderator, Telemundo celebrity journalist Maria Celeste Arraras, known as “the Katie Couric of Spanish TV,” soaked up nearly half a CNN GOP primary debate earlier this year representing “the Latino community” on issues such as Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy.
2012, of course, was the year of Bitter Candy — CNN’s Candy Crowley. She notoriously injected herself into the second debate (a town hall debate that was supposed to spotlight citizens’ questions) by arguing with then-GOP nominee Mitt Romney about Benghazi and running interference for Obama.
Crowley was just the latest Democratic plant at a CNN-sponsored election debate. The network has a long history of passing off partisan operatives as “ordinary people” and “undecided voters” during town halls while failing to disclose their political affiliations to viewers. Moreover, there’s no telling how many CNN contributors are acting as moles for Democratic campaigns. We know of at least one. This week, CNN host Jake Tapper was forced to admit that a WikiLeaks-published email showing CNN contributor and DNC head Donna Brazile had tipped off the Clinton campaign in advance to town hall questions was “horrifying.”
And four years ago, we also endured the spectacle of Clinton adviser-turned-ABC newsman George Stephanopoulos pushing the Democrats’ “war on women” propaganda by pressing Republicans on a nonsense contraceptive ban.
Yet, the debate commission and the Republican National Committee keep drawing from the same tainted well of cloistered media personalities. Establishment journos Anderson Cooper of CNN and Martha Raddatz of ABC News were repeat moderators this year — with disastrous results. Raddatz, another left-wing PBS alumna and Beltway fixture, created her own bitter Candy moment at the second presidential debate last week when she lost her marbles over Syria and scrapped with Donald Trump over Syria. He was right to call the townhall charade a “one on three” battle.
Actually, “one on three” is not quite accurate. As the Center for Public Integrity revealed this week, a whopping 96 percent of the nearly $400,000 in presidential campaign donations from “people identified in federal campaign finance filings as journalists, reporters, news editors or television news anchors — as well as other donors known to be working in journalism” has gone to Hillary Clinton.
Wham! There’s your fact-check of the year, my fellow journalists. I’m looking at you in particular, Washington Post reporter Chris Cillizza. Annoyed by mounting social media criticism of liberal reporters tilting their coverage, he tweeted this week: “Let me say for the billionth time: Reporters don’t root for a side. Period.”
Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt. It’s the fuel that sustains the Fourth Estate’s undeserved superiority complex and monopoly over the debates. What would be so wrong with allowing open, transparent, informed partisan journalists from all sides of the political aisle a bite at the presidential debate apple? Abandon the pretenses. Put all the ideological cards on the table. Make the debates honest and tolerable again.
The problem isn’t the partisan press. It’s the poseur press.