McCain laments selection of Ifill as VP moderator (Update)

I basically thought this story was done with yesterday since, at that time, McCain didn’t make much of tonight’s VP debate moderator, Gwen Ifill, and the book she’s coming out with which is friendly to Barack Obama. However, this morning McCain indicated he was displeased with the selection which is a complete turn from yesterday’s comments.

Story from Politico:

Hours ahead of the vice presidential debate, Sen John McCain (R-Ariz.) criticized the selection of PBS’s Gwen Ifill as moderator because she is writing a book called “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.”

“Frankly, I wish they had picked a moderator that isn’t writing a book favorable to Barack Obama — let’s face it,” McCain said on “Fox & Friends.” “But I have to have confidence that Gwen Ifill will handle this as the professional journalist that she is. …

“Life isn’t fair, as I mentioned earlier in the program.”

Ifill is moderator and managing editor of “Washington Week” and senior correspondent of “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.” She is viewed as one of Washington’s fairest journalists.

The propriety of her selection as moderator for tonight’s debate between Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) and Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) was questioned by conservatives after the Drudge Report drew attention to her book, to be published in January.

McCain took a different tack the day before, telling Fox News in another interview: “I think that Gwen Ifill is a professional, and I think that she will do a totally objective job because she is a highly respected professional. Does this help that if she has written a book that is favorable to Senator Obama? Probably not, but I have confidence that Gwen Ifill will do a professional job. And I have that confidence.”

What gives? Either McCain should have taken a stronger opinion yesterday or he should have stuck by what he previously said. Now it appears as if he’s taking a different stance on Ifill simply to bring more attention to her potential bias.

That being said, Ifill has admitted she did not tell the Commission on Presidential Debates about her upcoming book prior to her selection.

Bottom line on this is that given this conflict of interest, Ifill probably shouldn’t have been selected as a moderator.

However, I think she just has to be judged based on her performance tonight, which will probably be very good and free from bias.


Columbia University’s Journalism Review seems to agree with McCain and question the integrity of Ifill’s decision to remain as moderator:

Gwen Ifill has done solid, important journalism. She’ll likely be a good, tough, and neutral moderator to the vice-presidential debate. Let’s set that aside, for now.

Conflict of interest is often about appearances. There appears, to us, to be a conflict in Ifill moderating tomorrow night’s vice presidential debate. Here’s why:

– Ifill’s upcoming book is called “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.” It, apparently, “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 (like Newark Mayor Corey Booker and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick) forging a bold new path to political power.”

– The book apparently will be published on January 20th, 2009, Inauguration Day.

– It stands to reason that a book with such a title would sell better if a certain person is inaugurated on that day.

We’d like to hear from Ifill. We’re going to try to reach her now.

A Newshour spokeswoman returned my call to Ifill. The spokeswoman said that “as a journalist, Gwen has to focus on the task at hand: preparing for the debate” (adding that “way before this issue came up, she decided not to do interviews” in advance of the debate). I asked the spokeswoman about the appearance of conflict and she replied that Ifill had “proven herself to be fair and balanced and no doubt will be” tomorrow night.

I was then bumped up to the spokeswoman’s boss who said that Ifill had “set this aside,” was focusing on debate prep, and that he didn’t “think Gwen is in a position” to talk to me about this but that he would try to reach her and ask.

If I hear anything futher, I’ll update again.

Columbia University’s Journalism Review, no conservative or Republican bastion, raises some good points. Once again, I will reiterate the point that if this situation was reversed, I’d be reporting this the same way and be raising the same questions. Furthermore, the Obama campaign would no doubt be raising the same questions McCain raised today.

However, it is noted that McCain has shifted his position since yesterday seeming to blow this issue off and today expressing distaste for her as the moderator, as seen above in the first report.

If you’re an Obama or Biden supporter, keep in mind how you would be reacting if this situation was reversed and Ifill was writing a book praising McCain’s candidacy.

Simply reporting the story as it develops since it’s pertinent to the dialog though it’s impossible to please everyone. Our liberal readers think I should not report it while conservative readers are disgusted by it. Sorry, can’t please everyone, just covering what is happening, not fabricating a story.

  • JD

    Big suprise here. They are doing pre-emptive disaster control.

    If I were obama, I would request that she be replaced. The last thing you want is the McCain and “Conservative Gal” camp to call foul.

    It will undermind all the beautifully dumb statements Palin is going to make.

  • Babs

    I saw both interviews where McCain made these statements. After yesterday’s statement, which was genuine, I felt like he was a little pushed and maybe a little annoyed at having the same thing asked so much. His opinion really didn’t change. It sounded to me more like “sure, I wish she wasn’t writing the book, BUT I think she’ll be fair”. Even people who are obviously for McCain can push a little too hard sometimes, and I think that happened in this interview this morning.

  • Stalin


    Dumb statements like asking a paraplegic to stand up? I think that Ifill will be so conscious of being biased she may actually overcompensate and lean right… We’ll see.

  • JD


    exactly, Statements like asking a paraplegic to stand up.

    Or only knowing Roe V. Wade and playing it off.

    Or not being able to name any news sourses that you read.

    Or claiming foreign policy because you can see Russia from and Island in Alaska.

    Or not being able to name any substantial bills McCain (her running mate) has worked on.

    ect., ect., ect.

    Let me think which is worse when looking at qualifications of a VP.

    1. accidentally telling a parapaligic to stand up.

    2. knowing only Roe V. Wade.

    Circle 2 for me. I am getting butterflies just thinknig about the endless bounty of gaffes this debate is going to produce.

  • Babs

    Your sarcasm is really getting old, JD. Bring some meat to the table or step off. I’d like to be able to discuss the difference in issues from the debate tomorrow morning, not what gives you butterflies.

  • JD


    I can not lay the meat on the table until after the debate. You see, I can not talk about what was said at the debate until the said debate has already occured.

    At that time, there is going to be pleny of meat and potatos to go around.

    I dare say some of you will be choking on it.

    If I am wrong than I will be pulling the foot out of my mouth and you can rain on me like a girl wearing a white shirt with no bra.

  • Stalin


    Until you can write a post without being an arrogant and sarcastic jag bag, I’m not going to respond to you.

  • JD


    I love you too. I promise to be less of a jag bag toward you and babs.

    In fact, in a rare turn of events, I am going to jag bag on Nate only.

    You hear that Nate… I raise my fists to you in defience and vow to jag bag you!

    Wait… I think this entire post was a bit of a jag bag.

    Stalin, Why do you hate on me so much? I am just the player. Hate the game, man!

  • JD

    *** UPDATE ***

    “Palin is wearing a large bandage on her right palm. She slipped and fell while jogging on Monday at the ranch. She will wear the bandage tonight.”

    Could this be stagecraft!!??

    For those who don’t know what stagecraft is – Stagecraft is considered a technical rather than an artistic field as the focus is usually on the practical implementation of a designer’s artistic vision.

    So what image is the McCain Campaign looking to produce?

    Or maybe I am looking too far into it. 🙂

    Either way a bandage creates an image but will it play an effect… we shall see.



    JD post more idiotic post on here than anyone else. He is an idiot!

  • JD


    You guys ask me to post some meat and I post up some interesting info, like Palin wearing a bandage and you call me an idiot?

    I am not saying that the bandage is a big deal. For all I know she needs to wear it because she has a gapping wound from where she fell during her light jog.

    Still, Have you seen a VP debate where one of the candidates was wearing any form of bandage, let alone a visible one? Not to mention that Palin is a hands person… as in she speaks with her hands.

    I am not calling foul but just bringing up the rarity of this and how it could play into people’s perceptions.

    How does it look if you rail on an injured person?

    There are subliminal messages and it is coincidental to say the least.

    O_S… I forgive you.

    I know you are going through the 5 stages of grief right now. Stage 2 is anger and at least you have moved past denial. I have faith that you will get to acceptance by 2009 when Barack Obama becomes the next president.

    Also if you are wondering where I heard this…

  • U.S.A.

    Obama Sucks

    Conservative Gal has that honor so don’t be trying to give it to JD.

    Now on topic. The woman may be writing a book but that does not mean that she will be biased. She has not even been given a chance and some are already calling her out. I am not going to defend her because I don’t know her but people should slow down. If she winks at Biden and spits on Palin then start in.

  • bdjnk

    Funny thing about bias, I usually end up disliking the thing the other party is biased towards. It might actually benefit Palin to have a pro Obama moderator.

  • U.S.A.

    The moderator did well. Some of you made this a story when there was no reason.

  • Babs

    *LOL* JD, I never heard about a bandage and frankly never noticed one last night. Of course, everyone noticed Ifill’s cast – stagecraft for sympathy?

    The moderator did ok. I think everyone caught the on camera smirks between her and Biden, but it didn’t distract from the debate. I DO think she went for at least one gotcha question to Sarah, but in order to be able to do that, she had to level the same gotcha at Biden to be fair. And she did.

    To be honest, I think she was actually being won over by Palin by the time it was over.