NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker was widely praised for her performance moderating the final presidential debate between President Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden Thursday, following a week of Trump waging attacks against her.
Welker, who is the first Black woman to moderate a general-election presidential debate since Carole Simpson of ABC in 1992, was targeted by Trump in the days leading up to her moderation duties. The President repeatedly accused Welker of being “a radical left Democrat or whatever she is” following a New York Post article claiming that the White House correspondent has “deep Democratic ties.” (She doesn’t.)
Just hours before the debate, Trump kept up the assault on Welker in a tweet. The President wrote that Welker is “far worse” than the “bias, hatred and rudeness” of CBS and “60 Minutes,” in light of Trump reportedly walking out on his solo interview with anchor Lesley Stahl over her tough questioning.
However, Welker kept her composure throughout the night as she asked pointed questions to both candidates and cut in as soon as their remarks deviated from the debate topic at hand by telling them: “We need to move on.”
Even Trump himself came around and briefly praised Welker.
“By the way, so far, I respect very much the way you’re handling this, I have to say,” Trump said.
Some examples that earned Welker high praise included when Trump criticized the moderator as he blasted Biden for his position on fracking. After the President told Welker that “you never asked that question,” she responded “we have a number of topics, we’re going to get to it.” As soon as Trump hit back by preparing to attack Biden for “socialized medicine,” Welker gave the floor to Biden for his response.
When Welker pressed Trump on his administration’s family separation policy that separated more than 4,000 children from their parents at the border and what he will do to reunite families affected by it, Trump attempted to deflect by bringing up an images of “horrible cages.” But Welker pressed him again about whether he has a plan to reunite the children with their parents, to which Trump replied “yes, we’re trying very hard.”
Segueing into the final question of the night, Welker halted Trump’s rant accusing Biden of setting out to “destroy the oil industry.” After Welker gave Biden time to respond — which he did by ripping Trump for taking “everything out of context” — Trump attempted to butt in by asking if the former VP is “going to get China to do it.” Welker didn’t let Trump get away with his interjection, however, as she replied “no, we’re finished” before moving onto the final question about Trump’s Inauguration Day speech if he wins re-election.
Throughout and after the debate, Welker was roundly praised by other members of the press. Even Chris Wallace, who moderated last month’s disastrous debate, couldn’t help but express envy for the debate that Welker solidly moderated.
Shortly after the debate wrapped up, MSNBC anchor Brian Williams said “somebody owes our colleague Kristen Welker an apology,” referring to Trump’s weeklong attacks against her. Fellow MSNBC host Rachel Maddow agreed with Williams, saying that “she’s owed an apology by the President, who attacked her over and over and over again heading into this event tonight.”
Near-universal praise for moderator Welker underscores she’s the lone reporter to escape the curse of being a 2020 presidential moderator. Two moderators got steamrolled and third would-be moderator got suspended from C-SPAN. Once-glamorous job carries new risks in Trump era.
— Dan Diamond (@ddiamond) October 23, 2020
— Monica Alba (@albamonica) October 23, 2020
A quick personal shoutout: @kwelkernbc is doing a phenomenal job moderating this debate. Phenomenal. Her colleagues in the press corps, this reporter included, are ecstatic for her (and not surprised.)
— Jeff Mason (@jeffmason1) October 23, 2020
It’s extremely embarrassing for everyone who tried, unfairly, to discredit her that @kwelkernbc is by far the best debate moderator of the 2020 cycle.
— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) October 23, 2020
Just fabulous, fabulous questions by Kristen Welker.
— John Bresnahan (@BresPolitico) October 23, 2020
—@kwelkernbc without a doubt the best moderator of the 2020 cycle. Throughout this debate, she's been in command. But she's also asked great questions and allowed time for the candidates to respond to one another without letting things get too far off track.
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) October 23, 2020