Tag Archives: George Stephanopoulos

The Gwen Ifill non-issue issue

The day before the Joe Biden – Sarah Palin debate, the story broke that Gwen Ifill, the vice presidential debate moderator, is biased towards Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.  This must mean, after all, that Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin will not receive fair questions from Ifill.

This is what the Republicans are claiming.  Former Republican Congressman John Hostettler from Indiana has called for Ifill to step aside. 

Greta Van Susteren from Fox News claims to have broken this story to the McCain campaign.  They claim that they were unaware of Ifill’s book.  

GretaWire (Van Susteren’s blog) asked 2 questions from her ‘What do YOU think?’ post. 

To clean up some confusion…the Gwen Ifill moderator issue is simply this set of questions:

1/ will Gwen Ifill’s book sell better if Senator Obama wins? if the answer is that it won’t make a difference in sales, then her bias should not be questioned. If yes, then it should be.

2/ the book apparently has only a few pages about Senator Obama..then why is HIS name on the cover in the title? coincidence? or as a specific marketing tool to sell more books (i.e. make more money?)

I think these questions are fair.  Is Van Susteren suggesting that a professional journalist can not put aside personal opinion in order to fairly moderate a debate?  Was she offended when George Stephanopoulos asked Barack Obama about William Ayers and Weather Underground in the Democratic Primary?  The question was given to Stephanopoulos by Sean Hannity who we all know loves Obama.  And let’s not forget that Stephanopoulos was the communications director in the Bill Clinton administration and Hillary Clinton was in this debate where Stephanopoulos asked a clearly biased question.  If I recall, Greta was quiet after that debate nor did she state any objections prior to the debate about Stephanopoulos’s selection as moderator.

On Inauguration Day 2009, Ifill’s book ‘The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama’ will be released.  It was announced in July.  Here is the synopsis of the book from Amazon.

In THE BREAKTHROUGH, veteran journalist Gwen Ifill surveys the American political landscape, shedding new light on the impact of Barack Obama’s stunning presidential campaign and introducing the emerging young African American politicians forging a bold new path to political power.

Ifill argues that the Black political structure formed during the Civil Rights movement is giving way to a generation of men and women who are the direct beneficiaries of the struggles of the 1960s. She offers incisive, detailed profiles of such prominent leaders as Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, and U.S. Congressman Artur Davis of Alabama, and also covers up-and-coming figures from across the nation. Drawing on interviews with power brokers like Senator Obama, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Vernon Jordan, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, and many others, as well as her own razor-sharp observations and analysis of such issues as generational conflict and the “black enough” conundrum, Ifill shows why this is a pivotal moment in American history.

THE BREAKTHROUGH is a remarkable look at contemporary politics and an essential foundation for understanding the future of American democracy.

Sounds pretty biased to me. 

Last second responses of feign outrage by the right:

Conservative pundit Michelle Malkin wrote in yesterday’s New York Post:  “she’s so far in the tank for the Democratic presidential candidate, her oxygen delivery line is running out.”

Greta Van Susteren:   “In law, this would create a mistrial.”

Former Florida Republican congressman Joe Scarborough who currently hosts Morning Joe on MSNBC stated:  “Let’s get real here. What would journalists say if in 2004 Jim Lehrer wrote a book called ‘Breakthrough, the age of Bush?’ ”

Joe, I refer you to my comment above about Stephanopoulos.

But not all on the right were critical:

John Weaver, former advisor to John McCain:  All of this hand-wringing, excuse-making and whining keeps McCain’s economic recovery plan away from the public.  Gwen Ifill is as honorable and fair a journalist as there is, and all of us in our business know that.”

John McCain told Fox News that Miss Ifill is “a professional” and said he thought “she will do a completely objective job.”

Sarah Palin said, “I’m not going to let it be a concern.”

Gwen Ifill:  “I have to let people judge me by my work.”

*  *  *  *  *

The Timeline:

July 23rd: The Washington Post published an article about the book’s release.  This story was picked up in hundreds of newspapers nationwide including the conservative Washington Times.

August 21st:  Ifill wrote an article for Time Magazine discussing her book.

August 21st:  The Obama and McCain campaigns have agreed to terms on the moderators for the debates.

August 29th:  Sarah Palin is selected as John McCain’s running mate.

Mid September:  An article appeared in The Washington Post discussed Ifill’s book and her role as vice presidential debate moderator.

October 1st:  Feign outrage by the right as they appear stunned that Ifill has a ‘pro-Obama’ book coming out.

*  *  *  *  *

So, this begs the question:  Has Ifill ever been accused of partiality?   Is there any evidence that she has bias?

Did Chris Wallace treat former President Bill Clinton with the same respect that he had Republican politicians?  Did Bill O’Reilly treat Barack Obama with the same respect as his Republican interviews?  Once again, was George Stephanapolous and Charles Gibson unbiased toward Obama? 

Some believe that this is yet another ploy by the Republicans to further lower the bar.  By calling the moderator biased, they are hoping that Ifill thinks twice before asking any tough questions.  It also gives them yet another claim of gotcha journalism. 

I think this is an embarrassment to the campaign.  If this really is an issue AND the McCain campaign didn’t know about the book until Greta told them, then this is not a campaign that should get anywhere near the White House.  It proves that they impulsively selected Palin without vetting her.  It proves that everything he and his campaign have done over the last 2 weeks has been impulsive. 

Gwen Ifill’s response sums it up perfectly.

“I’ve got a pretty long track record covering politics and news, so I’m not particularly worried that one-day blog chatter is going to destroy my reputation.  The proof is in the pudding. They can watch the debate tomorrow night and make their own decisions about whether or not I’ve done my job.”