No Recent Historical Precedent for Non-Journalist Debate Moderators

by Katrina Trinko

Yesterday, Newt Gingrich said he wouldn’t debate President Obama if a journalist moderated.

“The reporters who run the debates have no interest in asking any question which will affect Obama,” Gingrich said, per CBS News. “That’s why, as your nominee, I will not accept debates in the fall in which the reporters are the moderators because you don’t need to have a second Obama person on the debate.”

This isn’t the first general election debate change Gingrich has requested; he also wants the audience to be allowed to participate, something the Commission of Presidential Debates told me has not been allowed previously and will not be allowed this cycle.

As it turns out, there is no precedent in recent decades for Gingrich’s non-journalist moderators. Looking through the list of moderators for general election debates dating back to 1976, I could not find a single example of a moderator who wasn’t a journalist.