Fox News’ Chris Wallace, C-SPAN’s Steve Scully and NBC’s Kristen Welker will moderate the three presidential debates between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, while USA Today’s Susan Page will moderate the one debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris.
All four are veteran journalists with spotless reputations for fairness and accuracy. Except if you ask Trump’s campaign.
“These are not the moderators we would have recommended if the campaign had been allowed to have any input,” said Trump spokesman Tim Murtaugh. “Some can be identified as clear opponents of President Trump, meaning Joe Biden will actually have a teammate on stage most of the time to help him excuse the radical, leftist agenda he is carrying.”
Uh huh. See, here’s the thing: The Commission on Presidential Debates says that it never consults with any campaign before it picks the moderators for the debates.
“The CPD uses three criteria to select its moderators: a) familiarity with the candidates and the major issues of the presidential campaign; b) extensive experience in live television broadcast news; and c) an understanding that the debate should focus maximum time and attention on the candidates and their views.”
The Trump team knows this. And has known it for a long time.
So why assail the impartiality of the moderators and the way in which they were picked?
Well, Trump knows his supporters tend to hate the media — outside of Fox News and One America News Network. So attacking the media is just an easy win.
But there’s also an element of working the refs here. Trump’s team knows that all four moderators, as well as the massive news organizations they represent, will see that statement. And it hopes that will alter — even slightly — the way the moderators, well, moderate, perhaps bending over backward to ensure that Trump is perceived to be getting fair treatment.
Of course, almost no matter what happens, Trump will complain that he was treated unfairly and won anyway. (He did that after all three debates with Hillary Clinton in 2016.)
The Point: Trump is a street fighter –always looking for any little edge he can exploit. Working the refs — i.e. attacking the debate moderators — is part and parcel of that approach.