The Corner

Politics & Policy

Should Moderators Confront Candidates? Or Is That Their Rivals’ Job?

One more thought on how the style of Fox News Channel moderators Megyn Kelly, Bret Baier, and Chris Wallace differs from other debate moderators this cycle . . . 

If you look at the way Fox handled its debates — the first one that irked Trump so much and last night — compared to CNN, Fox Business Channel, and the others, Kelly, Baier and Wallace seemed to want to treat a lot of questions like Tim Russert–era Meet the Press–style challenges to the record of the candidate. (Russert used to specialize in finding long-lost, long-forgotten video of political figures saying things that contradict their current positions.)

Some in the TV news business will say this is terrific; the moderators should take on the candidates. It’s edifying and probably more entertaining. Other folks are going to say, “Wait a minute, that’s not the job of the moderator; that’s the job of the other candidates. They’re supposed to take on each other.”

Earlier today I noted that we’re not seeing other networks use this confront-your-past-record style the way Fox News did. But generally speaking, there’s been less Democratic appetite for hard attacks against each other. Bernie Sanders clearly is back-and-forth on how much he’s willing to confront Hillary — recall “the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn e-mails!” — and Martin O’Malle also wimped out on first possible chance to go after Clinton on the issue of her private server on the debate stage.

By contrast, most GOP debates are scrums; everybody’s got to show that they’re tough enough, a fighter, and so on. Democratic debate audiences — both in the debate halls and watching at home — might be more inclined to recoil from attacks they see as unnecessarily negative. In other words, moderators at Democratic debates are waiting for a confrontation or refutation from other candidates that is unlikely to happen.

Democrats refuse to do a presidential debate on Fox News Channel because they’re terrified — well, they’ll claim that Fox News is unfairly biased against their candidates. Apparently they can handle anything . . . except Megyn Kelly, Bret Baier, and Chris Wallace.


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