Moderator Bias: What We Can Do To Fix The Problem

When biased moderators enter the debate, the debate is over.

George Stephanopoulos, Tuesday, March 3, 2020 on ABC's "Good Morning America." "Good Morning America" airs M-F (7am-9am, ET) on ABC. (Paula Lobo/ABC via Getty Images)
Paula Lobo/ABC via Getty Images

During the debate phase of the election cycle, much of the focus has not been on either of the two candidates vying for victory. Instead, significant attention from both sides has been assigned to a position which, if performed successfully, should remain fairly anonymous: the role of moderator.

First there was Fox News’ Chris Wallace, who moderated the first presidential debate between Trump and Biden. Despite saying that he hoped to be “as invisible as possible” during the debate, Wallace’s performance was criticized by both the Left and the Right in the aftermath of the fiery clash between the incumbent and his challenger.

Democrats condemned Wallace’s failure to “control” Trump, with former Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill tweeting, “Chris Wallace is embarrassing, and trying to pretend that the problem isn’t 100% Trump,” and Ben Rhodes emerging to offer his response: “Chris Wallace just disappearing.” 

Republicans also condemned Wallace’s performance. Some mirrored the Democrats’ criticism, such as Laura Ingraham who tweeted, “Biden seems to interrupt with impunity.” Others pointed to Wallace’s apparent defense of Biden when he came under pressure, with Andy McCarthy tweeting, “Chris Wallace jumps in a second time when Biden having trouble with Trump’s questioning.” Finally, let’s not forget the moment Wallace — the debate moderator — appeared to laugh with Biden.

However, compared to the moderators who came next for Trump and Biden, Wallace’s performance seemed relatively acceptable. After the second presidential debate was canceled, Trump appeared on an NBC News town hall with Savannah Guthrie who, as SNL put it, “began by tearing [Trump] a new one.” At the same time, Biden appeared on an ABC News town hall with George Stephanopoulos. While Trump actively sparred with Guthrie, Karl Rove described Stephanopoulos as “like my baseball coach when I was in the third grade,” “tossing softballs.”

The central problem which binds these performances together is that the mainstream media is dominated by those on the political Left. Chris Wallace is a Democrat, Savannah Guthrie is married to a former Democratic political aide, and George Stephanopoulos was Bill Clinton’s White House communications director. C-SPAN’s Steve Scully was meant to host the second presidential debate, until he famously asked Trump critic Anthony Scaramucci for advice on Twitter. The host of the final presidential debate, Kristen Welker, has been criticized for “deep ties to the Democratic Party.” 

Of course, political affiliation itself isn’t proof of bias, and it would be naive to assume that every open conservative would treat Biden and Trump with an equal level of scorn. After all, there is a reason many are clamoring for Biden to be questioned by conservative powerhouses like Sean Hannity or Tucker Carlson.

As always, the issue is not bias itself, but the continued assertion that bias does not exist. In the same breath as cheering Guthrie as a “surprise badass,” progressives hide behind their supposed “objective journalists” to hijack the field of debate in order to push their agenda, attack their enemies, and defend their friends. Despite their repeated and consistent demonstration of clear bias, they refuse to acknowledge any wrongdoing.

Something simply has to change, or else we risk the inevitable decline of debates into gladiatorial matches between activist journalists and Republicans, or careful games of softball among Democrats. As voters and consumers of news media, we have two options. Either the role of the debate moderator changes to acknowledge bias, with the framing of the debate changing accordingly; or moderators must be forced to play the role they are given — to moderate the debate — rather than the role most clearly want — to control the debate.

It’s time for us to loosen the Left’s grip on “objective journalism,” and their relentless and biased control of our debates is a good place to start.

Ian Haworth is host of The Ian Haworth Show and The Truth in 60 Seconds. Follow him on Twitter at @ighaworth.

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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