VP debate moderator releasing Obama-friendly book (Update)

This recent revelation seen on the Drudge Report and first reported by WorldNetDaily is questionable with regard to political motivations and the fact that the book has been no secret for months now. Thursday night’s VP debate moderator, Gwen Ifill from PBS News, is set to release a book about post-racial politics on inauguration day in 2009. The book is not centered on Obama, however, from the description it appears give him favorable praise. You can view the Amazon.com product page here.

See updates below, story amended and extended, and somewhat exposed.

Whether you’re for Obama or McCain, think of having a pro-McCain moderator at an Obama/McCain debate, you’d never got for it! The moderator should be, as much as possible, free from inherent ties to bias. In this case, Ms. Ifill has a financial interest in bias since her book will be more meaningful if Obama becomes the next President. This isn’t to say she still can’t do a good job, however, these types of things should be disclosed well in advance or Ms. Ifill should have withdrawn her name from the running as moderator.

Description 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.

Report from Fox News:

Questions are being raised about the objectivity of Thursday’s vice presidential debate moderator after news surfaced that she is releasing a new book promoting Barack Obama and other black politicians who have benefited from the civil rights struggle.

Gwen Ifill, of PBS’ “The NewsHour,” is expected to remain as moderator, however.

“The book has been a known factor for months, so I’m not sure what the big deal is,” said NewsHour spokeswoman Anne Bell.

She told FOXNews.com that there were no concerns about Ifill’s neutrality, and that the debate Thursday between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden would go forward as planned. Ifill also moderated the 2004 vice presidential debate.

“We were pleased that the (debate) commission once again turned to Gwen to moderate the debate,” Bell said. “They’ve known and trusted her as a moderator and that’s wonderful.”

Ifill’s book, “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama,” is due to be released about the same time the next president takes the oath of office.

In her book, Ifill contends that the black political structure of the civil rights movement has cleared the way for post-racial politicians to ascend to new heights.

Now some are wondering whether Ifill can be fair and balanced, and whether she should be the moderator of Thursday’s 9 p.m. ET debate.

“Clearly her books aren’t going to do as well unless Obama wins, so it looks like she has some investment, literally, in one candidate or the other. And she’s supposed to be sitting there as a neutral arbiter during the debate,” said NPR’s Juan Williams, a FOX News contributor. “I think the world of Gwen Ifill but I know there’s a perception problem.”

Web site WorldNetDaily reported on the Ifill book Tuesday night.

Video report from Fox News as well:

There is news from the McCain campaign that they were NOT aware of the book which means it was not disclosed up front.

Will it matter? Probably not and I’m guessing this increased scrutiny will make here less likely to show any bias in favor of Biden, not that she was going to anyway. Still though, should any objective reporter be reporting on a Presidential race, participating in the debates, while at the same time be writing a favorable book about one of the candidates?

All in all, probably much ado about nothing since nothing will be changed at this point.


There is outcry on this story from both sides, loudly. I have received more emails on this story than anything I’ve ever posted asking why the Commission on Presidential Debates would then allow Ifill to continue in her role as moderator. On the other side are good arguments such as reporting this story will bias people even going into the debate. This is an example of you’re damned if you and damned if you don’t. That is, if I ignore the story then I’m not reporting everything in full, however, in mentioning the story I am accused of bias. No bias here folks, just reporting what’s happening.

More reports on this, first from the Washington Post blog:

It’s no secret that Gwen Ifill has been working on a book about the younger generation of black politicians. The PBS correspondent talked about “Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama” in a Washington Post article on Sept. 4.

But today, the day before Ifill is to moderate the vice-presidential debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden, a conservative Web site made an issue of the book, which quickly ricocheted onto the Drudge Report. “VP Debate Moderator Ifill Releasing Pro-Obama Book,” said the headline on World Net Daily picked up by Drudge.

There is no evidence that the book will be favorable to the Democratic nominee. Ifill, the host of “Washington Week,” told The Post she is focusing on Obama and three other up-and-coming politicians, such as Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Newark Mayor Cory Booker. She said she started the book when it looked unlikely that Obama would win the Democratic nomination.

“The book has been out there and discussed for months,” said PBS spokeswoman Anne Bell. “It’s a non-issue.”

Queried about it, John McCain expressed confidence in Ifill.

“I think that Gwen Ifill is a professional, and I think she will do a totally objective job because she is a highly-respected professional,” McCain told Fox News’s Carl Cameron.

So perhaps this was no secret to begin with and it’s coming out now for political reason prior to the debate? That’s a good question.

Another report from the Associated Press:

NEW YORK (AP) — PBS journalist Gwen Ifill, moderator of the upcoming vice presidential debate, dismissed conservative questions about her impartiality because she is writing a book that includes material on Barack Obama.

Ifill said Wednesday that she hasn’t even written her chapter on Obama for the book “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama,” which is to be published by Doubleday on Jan. 20, 2009, the day a new president is inaugurated.

“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,” Ifill said. “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.”

The day before the Joe Biden-Sarah Palin debate, columnist Michelle Malkin wrote in the New York Post about Ifill’s book, saying “she’s so far in the tank for the Democratic presidential candidate, her oxygen delivery line is running out.”

In its online description of the book, Doubleday says that 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.”

The McCain campaign found out about Ifill’s book in the last day or so, a spokesman said.

Ifill said Obama’s story, which she has yet to write, is only a small part of the book, which discusses how politics in the black community have changed since the civil rights era. Among those subjects is Colin Powell, secretary of state in the Bush administration.

More from The Caucus:

The book has not been kept under wraps by Random House, which listed it in its catalog, along with a synopsis and official publication date. On Wednesday, a spokesman for the publisher said the book is not completed yet and the final manuscript will not be filed until after the election.

But Fox News reported that the McCain campaign did not know about the book, and suggested that its impending publication distorts Ms. Ifill’s objectivity as a moderator.

“I think I told them when I made my efforts — e-mails about midnight — to find out,” Greta Van Susteren of Fox News wrote on her blog about the McCain campaign. “It simply is not fair — in law, this would create a mistrial.”

The McCain campaign itself has not complained. A spokesman did not return calls for comment.

So there you go, make of it what you will.

Two possibilities:

1. Political stunt launched by the Drudge Report to create controversy the day before the debate and give Palin an excuse if she performs poorly.

2. The exposure of a biased moderator being given the opportunity to sway public opinion in the debate.

I’m going to plead the fifth and let you folks hash it out.

My personal bottom line is that I would have absolutely, without a doubt, reported a similar story had it been about a moderator writing a favorable book to McCain or Palin. Therefore, I have no remorse in posting this story as I think people have a right to know, regardless of the political background of affiliation. Ifill may do a fantastic job, and I’m certain she will, however, that doesn’t change the disclosure of this information, that’s all.

The bottom line here is: Ifill is now under a bit of scrutiny so I’m betting she’ll moderate a fair debate without issue, despite any accurate or contrived controversy, you make the call on that. Clearly the motives of where the story came from can be questioned.

Also, I’m getting emails from people angry at ME for making Ifill the moderator. Please folks, I am not the Commission on Presidential Debates and have nothing to do with setting these things up or picking moderators. If you’d like to express outrage or support for Ifill as the moderator, please direct your comments to the Commission on Presidential Debates, not me as I have nothing to do with it.


McCain weighs in the issue and sees no controversy or conflict of interest:

There you go, McCain camp doesn’t see an issue here.


Video report from CNN:

More perspective.. so as you see, analysts are divided on the issue along party lines mostly. Still, reverse the situation with a moderator who wrote a book friendly to McCain, Democrats would be crying foul in the same respect, as they should be.