C-SPAN host Steve Scully, who was selected to host the second presidential debate, sparked controversy on Thursday night over a tweet that he sent to Anthony Scaramucci, an opponent of Trump who also briefly served as the former White House communications director in the administration.
Scully, whose selection to be the moderator for the next debate has come under fire after news broke that he used to intern for then-Senator Joe Biden, tweeted at Scaramucci: “@Scaramucci should I respond to trump.”
The exact context of Scully’s tweet was unclear, but it still ignited backlash from a wide range of political commentators and reporters.
The Hill reporter Joe Concha wrote on Twitter: “What? Why is the next presidential debate moderator publicly asking one of Trump’s staunchest critics in Anthony Scaramucci if he should respond to the president? In a related story, Scully once interned for Sen. Joe Biden. Optics here are horrible & underscore mistrust is media.”
— Joe Concha (@JoeConchaTV) October 9, 2020
Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Rebeccah Heinrichs wrote: “We need a different moderator at the v[ery] least. This is disqualifying.”
We need a different moderator at the v least. This is disqualifying. https://t.co/tnPhB6z0jj
— Rebeccah Heinrichs (@RLHeinrichs) October 9, 2020
Politico reporter Alex Thompson wrote: “odd thing for the next debate moderator to tweet.”
odd thing for the next debate moderator to tweet. https://t.co/WXH0UdNEB4
— Alex Thompson (@AlxThomp) October 9, 2020
Journalist Yashar Ali noted that he believes that Scully thought he was sending Scaramucci a private DM on the platform.
Steve is the moderator of the next presidential debate and he thinks he's DMing Scaramucci…but he's tweeting @ him.
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) October 9, 2020
Donald Trump Jr. responded on Twitter: “Are you kidding me. Steve Scully the former Biden intern and moderator of the next debate thinks he’s DMing… but he’s doing it out loud. Yea, totally not a setup. Journalism is dead.”
Are you kidding me. Steve Scully the former Biden intern and moderator of the next debate thinks he’s DMing… but he’s doing it out loud.
Yea, totally not a setup. Journalism is dead. https://t.co/b07swOAkKg
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) October 9, 2020
The news comes after the Commission on Presidential Debates announced early on Thursday that it was changing the debate to be a virtual debate.
President Donald Trump said in an interview shortly after the announcement that the decision was “not acceptable.”
“I’m not going to do a virtual debate,” Trump said. “I’m not going to waste my time on a virtual debate. That’s not what debating is all about. You sit behind a computer and do a debate. It’s ridiculous. And then they cut you off whenever they want. I have a host, who I always thought was a nice guy, but I see he’s a never-Trumper, you know, came out that he’s a never-Trumper. And we do have some of them, Maria, believe it or not, because they don’t like to win.”
The commission said this evening that it would not reconsider moving the debate back to being an in person event.
“President Trump’s physician, Dr. Sean Conley, says the President will be medically cleared for ‘safe return to public engagements’ by Saturday, five full days before the originally scheduled debate in Miami on October 15,” Trump Campaign Manager Bill Stepien said. “There is therefore no medical reason why the Commission on Presidential Debates should shift the debate to a virtual setting, postpone it, or otherwise alter it in any way.”
“CPD Chairman Frank Fahrenkopf admits that they consulted with no one before unilaterally changing the format of a debate, well in advance of any knowledge of what the President’s condition would be on debate night,” Stepien continued. “The commission must stop protecting Joe Biden from this in-person debate and allow the event to proceed as it was agreed to months ago. The American people can see through this obvious attempt to shield Biden from another shellacking like he got two weeks ago in Cleveland and the CPD must reverse course and let the debate proceed.”