The second presidential debate will be hosted by CNN’s Anderson Cooper and ABC News’ Martha Raddatz, it was announced Friday by the Commission on Presidential Debates. The choice of Cooper brings additional baggage to the second debate, already clouded by questions about Facebook’s involvement.
“I’m shocked someone who’s more pundit than journalist was included in the debate mix,” said Dan Gainor, vice president for Business and Culture for the Media Research Center, a conservative watchdog. “When this election is over, GOP needs to rethink who it agrees to for debates. We already had the primary disaster with CNBC this year. It’s time to change formats and cut out lefty journalists altogether.”
“I’m shocked someone who’s more pundit than journalist was included in the debate mix.”
Last June, when Cooper interviewed Pam Bondi, Florida attorney general, just after the Pulse gay nightclub massacre in Orlando, he repeatedly queried her — and seemed to berate her — for her previous stances on gay marriage.
Bondi later complained she was blindsided. She had shown up to discuss a terrible terrorist attack on mostly gay customers at a nightclub, and her record on gay marriage was called into question. It was made the issue of the moment by Cooper.
Aside from conservatives’ discomfort with Cooper’s style, the network he works for has been engaged in a high-profile feud with Donald Trump.
The timing of the announcement of Cooper as a moderator comes only weeks after Trump unleashed his wrath against CNN’s alleged bias in a “tweetstorm.”
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In fact, on Aug. 1, CNN noted Trump lampooned CNN in seven tweets within 24 hours for what he called unfair election coverage.
The high-profile tension between Trump and the cable news network that cuts Cooper’s paychecks only adds to questions about bias in the second debate that have already been raised by Facebook’s involvement.
The second half of the debate will allow the moderators to pick questions and topics based off what is trending on Facebook.
That potential for allowing social media algorithms and tech wizards to influence the debate, in closed rooms in Silicon Valley, potentially using “trending tricks” of the trade, has already been raised as a point of concern for Republicans.
Facebook was caught earlier this year suppressing trending conservative news items. Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is a well-known environmentalist and open borders advocate, and has publicly criticized Trump.
“I hear fearful voices calling for building walls and distancing people they label as others. For blocking free expression, for slowing immigration, reducing trade, and in some cases around the world even cutting access to the internet,” Zuckerberg said in April.
In addition, social media isn’t exactly known as the place for civil political discussion. Both candidates could face hostile interrogations from users anywhere in the world. The social media-based format calls for skilled, unbiased moderators to keep it fair.
The chairmen of the debates, Frank Fahrenkopf and Mike McCurry, issued a joint statement on the debates.
“These journalists bring extensive experience to the job of moderating, and understand the importance of using expanded time periods effectively,” they said. “The formats chosen for this year’s debates are designed to build on the formats introduced in 2012, which focused big blocks of time on major domestic and foreign topics. We are grateful for their willingness to moderate, and confident that the public will learn more about the candidates and the issues as a result.”
That debate, conducted in a “town meeting” format, will be held on Sunday, Oct. 9, at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.
Other debates include:
The first presidential debate, hosted by Lester Holt of NBC Nightly News. It will be held Monday, Sept. 26, at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York.
The vice presidential debate, hosted by Elaine Quijano, an anchor for CBSN and a correspondent for CBS News. It will be held Tuesday, Oct. 4, at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia.
The third presidential debate, hosted by Chris Wallace of “Fox News Sunday.” It will be held Wednesday, Oct. 19, at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.