Moderation Without Representation: Is It Time to Break Big Media’s Grip on Presidential Debates?

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

What are the odds that out of four scheduled presidential and vice-presidential debates — which turned into five once they split the second presidential debate into simultaneous town halls — all of the moderators would be identifiably left-wing Democrats?

If you pulled the moderators out of the proverbial phone book, the odds say about one in four moderators would be a Democrat, which is slightly less than the odds of getting a Republican moderator. 

Gallup has found that as of September 2020, party identification among Americans is 28% Republican, 42% Independent, and 27% Democrat. This is important for many reasons, and I’ll come back to one of them later on. For five debate events, you should expect to have one Republican moderator, one Democrat moderator, and three Independents. Right? But that’s not what we got, not this year or any other presidential year.

Despite this scientifically calculated partisan split, all of the debate moderators have been partisan Democrats with axes to grind against the president. Let’s go down the list of this year’s so-called “moderators.”

Chris Wallace of Fox News — a registered Democrat who wasted time pestering Trump to denounce white supremacy, which Trump in fact denounced in a response to Wallace four years earlier.

Steve Scully of C-SPAN — a former Biden intern, who got caught working with a known (and widely discredited) Trump hater, and then lied about it.

George Stephanopolous — a White House spokesman for Democrat President Bill Clinton, and by extension, Hillary Clinton.

Savannah Guthrie — a career mainstream media talking head and hack.

Kristen Welker, the moderator for the final debate, has deep Democrat ties and was once caught helping a Hillary Clinton campaign operative during the 2016 election. 

That’s a stacked deck. The Commission on Presidential Debates either failed to vet the moderators or knew what it was getting and found their partisan histories acceptable. There are no other available options. Former Sen. Bob Dole suggests it’s the latter. 

This is not just unfair to the president. It’s unfair to the American people. We’re getting debate moderation without representation. Normal Americans care about issues none of the moderators have emphasized. None of the moderators have asked Joe Biden for his in-depth reaction to the Abraham Accords. None have asked him if he stands by his tweet describing Trump’s travel ban early in the COVID pandemic as “xenophobic.” None have asked him if he agrees with the economically and psychologically ruinous shutdowns imposed by Democrat governors such as Gov. Whitmer in Michigan, and none have asked him about the stark differences in the economic recoveries between red and blue states. None have asked him to comment on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s horrific COVID death count in nursing homes. None have asked him about his role in poisoning our Supreme Court nominations process decades ago.

Is that laptop Hunter Biden’s property or not? Are the emails real or not? Biden hasn’t really had to name one thing he has accomplished during 47 years in public office while Trump has been subjected to root canals each time. Has Biden ever, knowingly or not, cashed in on his political positions or influence? Does he really think police should aim for the leg? Are police racist, as Colin Kaepernick insists and many in Biden’s base believe? Should Democrat-run cities defund their police? That’s just off the top of my head. 

Here’s What We Discovered When We Went Through the VP Debate Questions One by One

What the moderators have done is fail to moderate. NBC’s Savannah Guthrie badgered the president for about 20 minutes before even allowing a regular person to ask him anything during what was supposed to be a town hall. Over on ABC at the same time, an actual bona fide Democrat operative, George Stephanopolous, served as “moderator.” While Guthrie was throwing spitballs at Trump, Stephanopolous was playing softball with Biden and going to five-minute breaks to let him catch his breath. It was an inglorious and unfair spectacle. 

The media have also been caught planting Democrat operatives as supposedly undecided voters to ask questions and give responses — repeatedly, in just about every election cycle I can recall. Once may just be a coincidence. Twice, three, and four times — that’s intentional. 

How does all this happen? A study in 2014 found that the mainstream media does not represent the mainstream of the American public at all. Fully 93% of mainstream media journalists are liberal Democrats. While many, maybe even most, may strive to be objective in their coverage and even believe that they are, they will bring biases to everything from story selection — what gets covered versus what gets ignored — to how they perceive and therefore frame a story. If “unconscious bias” exists, as the media often claims in the realm of race relations, how could it not then also exist in the realm of how journalists operate?

If your pool of potential moderators is made up entirely of the mainstream media, your pool is outside of mainstream America.

If a journalist has had no experience or contact with, say, evangelicals, how will they approach a story that delves into why evangelicals support Donald Trump, who on the surface appears to have nothing in common with them? The mainstream media has utterly failed to cover this quite important story for four years. If Trump wins a second term, it’s reasonable to expect them to keep on failing. This will keep America divided, and the media will continue to bleed out its trust. That bleed will continue to fall unevenly between Democrats and Republicans because the media tend to reflect and favor Democrat points of view. Remember, 93% of them self-identify as Democrats. 

The media’s hard leftward tilt also has ramifications for how they approach polling. Just to look at one mainstream media poll, CNN/SSRS polled right after the first presidential debate. That poll found that Biden won handily, which the media then treated as actual news. But the poll’s partisan split was 39% Democrat, 25% Republican, and 36% Independent. 

That’s miles off from Gallup’s findings. Not even close.

Pollsters claim they can weight to correct the split, but if they’re working from the wrong basic picture of the American voter, can they? Do they even really want to? Polls have become less and less reflections of opinions and instead become tools to drive opinion and enforce the lines of what the media deem acceptable ways to think about and discuss issues based on their worldview. 

Put a pin in that and consider every social media controversy of the past several years. Most social media storms start on Twitter. Chris Pratt ran into a tweetstorm because he chose not to openly support Joe Biden. That’s his choice and he has a right to support whoever he wants and be as loud or as quiet about it as he wants. 

Twitter disagrees, because #silenceisviolence, and it became a thing. Iron Man himself stepped up to defend his friend from the seething digital hordes.

Twitter, according to Pew, is also not representative of the American public. It’s younger and farther to the left than your average citizen — supposing tweeters are even Americans at all. There’s no telling who many of them are. A discerning journalist who is not already captured by the far left might treat Twitter controversies with skepticism. But that almost never happens. The Pratt story probably shouldn’t have been a story at all, or it could have been framed as intolerance from far-left Twitter as a nice guy coming under fire. But that’s not how stories like this are ever treated by the mainstream media. They pile on if the target is conservative. They go on defense if the target is someone from the left like Jeffrey Toobin. Twitter’s intolerance and bias reflect the media’s, and vice versa. 

The bottom line is the mainstream media is not representative of the American public at all, not even close. It’s actually widely out of step with mainstream America and our concerns and priorities. Because of this inarguable fact, they do not deserve to have control over the questions and moderation of presidential and vice-presidential debates. It’s time to break big media’s stranglehold over this key aspect of our republic and return power to the people. 

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