President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. will debate with a single moderator at each of their three matchups, the Commission on Presidential Debates announced on Wednesday.
The first debate of the general election, on Sept. 29, will be moderated by the "Fox News Sunday" anchor Chris Wallace. Mr. Wallace received high marks for his debut debate in 2016 and is known for his sharp interviewing style. He is also frequently a target of needling tweets by Mr. Trump.
The second debate, on Oct. 15, will be moderated by Steve Scully, the political editor at C-SPAN, who served as an alternate moderator for the 2016 debates.
Kristen Welker, a White House correspondent for NBC News and a co-anchor of the weekend "Today" program, will moderate the third debate on Oct. 22. This will be her first time moderating a general-election debate.
A print journalist, Susan Page, the Washington bureau chief of USA Today, will moderate the vice-presidential debate between Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris on Oct. 7.
Susan Page of USA Today will moderate the Vice Presidential debate.
The debate commission, a nonpartisan group that has overseen all general-election debates since 1987, has sole discretion to pick the moderators, and the presidential candidates are not allowed to veto the choices.
Some gamesmanship, though, is inevitable. The commission's primary criteria are journalistic skills and the ability to confidently take charge of a nationally televised broadcast. But organizers also prefer that neither campaign vociferously objects to any of its choices.
This year, the debate commission may not get its wish.
Mr. Trump's communications director, Tim Murtaugh, issued a statement on Wednesday claiming, without evidence, that "some" of the chosen moderators "can be identified as clear opponents of President Trump" and charging that Mr. Biden "will actually have a teammate onstage."
Mr. Murtaugh did not say which of the moderators he was accusing of bias, and the Trump campaign did not clarify when asked for additional comment. He also wrote that the choices "are not the moderators we would have recommended if the campaign had been allowed to have any input." In fact, the debate commission never allows campaigns to formally advise on the choices of moderators.
The Biden campaign also issued a statement, saying that the Democratic candidate "looks forward to participating in the debates set by the commission, regardless of who the independently chosen moderators are."The selection of Mr. Wallace may set off Mr. Trump, who has criticized the Fox News anchor's coverage in the past, although the president also sat for an interview with him at the White House in July. Last week, at a rally in New Hampshire, Mr. Trump taunted Mr. Wallace for "a lack of talent" and compared the anchor unfavorably with his father, the "60 Minutes" legend Mike Wallace, who died in 2012.
In August, Mr. Trump's lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, sent a list of 24 journalists "for consideration" by the debate commission. Roughly 40 percent of his suggestions were affiliated with Fox News and Fox Business. Mr. Wallace's name was not among them.
No one from Mr. Giuliani's list was ultimately selected.
No journalist from CNN — the news organization that is arguably the most frequent target of Mr. Trump's attacks on journalists — made the cut this year. One of the network's anchors, Anderson Cooper, served as a co-moderator in 2016.
Mr. Scully, of C-SPAN, is a respected broadcaster whose network is known for coverage that prizes nonpartisanship over punditry. (He may be familiar to some viewers from his call-in program, "Washington Journal," in which he listens impassively as callers express lengthy political opinions.)
Ms. Welker, of NBC News, is the second Black female journalist to serve as solo moderator of a presidential debate, after Carole Simpson of ABC in 1992; she has reported on the White House since 2011. Ms. Page, of USA Today, is a veteran White House journalist who has covered six presidential administrations and wrote a biography of Barbara Bush.
Each debate is 90 minutes and is set to air at 9 p.m. Eastern, with no breaks for commercials. An average of 74 million people watched the three matchups between Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016, by far the candidates' biggest live audience of the campaign.
Along with juggling dueling presidential candidates onstage, the moderators are solely responsible for choosing the questions and topics for the first and third debates. The second debate, which is scheduled to take place in Miami, follows a town-hall format where residents of South Florida will pose the questions; moderators are responsible for follow-ups and for facilitating the discussion.
"Each individual brings great professionalism to moderating and understands that the purpose of the 2020 debate formats is to facilitate in-depth discussion of major topics," the commission co-chairs — Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., Dorothy S. Ridings and Kenneth Wollack — wrote in a statement.
By Michael M. Grynbaum, New York Times, September 2, 2020. The photograph of the 3 journalists moderating the debate was not part of the Times article.
September 3, 2020
Voices4America Post Script. Soon the debates! Do you remember how a snorting, rambling, bullying, lying Trump lost (audience polls) lost all 3 debates last time to Hillary? Biden will beat him too, as he snorts, rambles, bullies and lies. But that means nothing. All that matters is Will You Vote! Pass this along to help. #BidenHarris2020