Now That You Mention It

September 5, 2016 10:43 p.m.

It’s a bit ironic, given where we are now. But I think this point from TPM Reader PS at least deserves some discussion. It seems pretty clear that the word came down from Murdoch during that first debate that the moderators should rough Trump up – not because he was the emerging frontrunner and needed scrutiny but because he wasn’t the Fox-preferred candidate. As I predicted that evening, it was quite likely to backfire. And it did. But that’s at least problematic for someone lined up to host one of the presidential debates.

The most important thing in Gabriel Sherman’s article about Roger Ailes, by far is actually not one of the five points listed by Katharine Krueger in her recent piece. (Does the American public really need to care that Ailes’s wife is about to leave him?)

The most newsworthy thing—and a genuinely astonishing finding—is that the moderator of the third scheduled presidential debate has already ‘thrown’ the questions for a televised debate at least once at the insistence of Rupert Murdoch, conveyed by Ailes, specifically in order to politically harm Murdoch’s least preferred candidate, Donald Trump.

Please, please point out to your readers how insanely inappropriate and unjournalistic this behavior is—‘hammering’ a candidate, in the Fox News source’s words, at the dictation of his boss, for political purposes—and how completely it disqualifies Chris Wallace from moderating further debates.

This deserves to be an absolutely enormous issue, now that it has been reported openly.

It means that Wallace will be unusually hard on Trump, to try to overcome the accusation of misconduct in his previous outing; or unusually hard on Clinton, for ‘balance’; or unusually hard on Clinton, simply because he is a conservative used to following instructions from a conservative mogul.

None of these possibilities is tolerable for the debates, or for deliberative democracy. Chris Wallace should be disqualified immediately, now that Gabriel Sherman has reported on this jaw-dropping misconduct in the first Republican primary debate.

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