Gwen Ifill was named to be the moderator of the US vice presidential debate to be held on Thursday, October 2, 2008. Reports show that Ifill also has a book to be released called "The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama."
Moderators of the presidential and vice presidential debates determine the questions to be asked as well making sure the candidates keep to their time limits in response to those questions and during the rebuttal phases of the question and answer period.
Gwen Ifill is the moderator and managing editor of the Public Broadcasting Service program "Washington Week."
It has been confirmed that the information about Ifill's book, to go on sale on January 20, 2009, called "The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama," was not disclosed to the McCain campaign before agreeing on the moderator to host the vice presidential debate.
January 20, 2009 is also Inauguration Day.
World Net Daily reports Ifill was "cited in complaints PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler said he received after Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin delivered her nomination acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., earlier this month."
The issue of objectivity aside, some conservative pundits are asking if there is a conflict of interest because of Ifill's book, with her standing to gain financially if Obama wins the November election, which gives ifill a financial stake in the outcome of the election.
Let’s say for the sake of argument that Ifill doesn’t show any particular bias in this book towards Obama, even though Michelle documents both an Essence flack job and complaints about her coverage of the Republican convention that make her bias clear. Instead, let’s just focus on the financial interest Ifill has in an Obama victory in five weeks. If Obama loses, how will her book sell? Not nearly as well as if Obama wins, and everyone knows that.
Moderators should not have a financial stake in the election. That should be exceedingly obvious, and is to most people outside of the mainstream media and the Commission. Her pending book publication should alone disqualify her to moderate any of the debates this cycle. If Ifill had any sense of journalistic ethics, she would have turned them down herself.
Center-left pundits are asking some questions as well about objectivity and appearances, as evidenced by T-Steele at Moderate Voice:
My dear ladies and gentlemen, in Election ‘08 where partisanship is as thick as the foundation of the Empire State Building, having a moderator that appears “so friendly” to Senator Obama just doesn’t look right and opens the door to “the fix” talk. Although Ifill isn’t one of those screaming political pundits, I’ve heard her on various radio shows (especially urban radio) where she just gushes about Senator Obama’s historic run for the presidency. And with so much riding on Governor Palin’s performance in this debate, why have someone with an Obama tilt moderate? While I’m hardly a conservative and/or Republican (I do have a smattering of some conservative views), they have every right to not like this situation. And I would say the same if the moderator was a person who gushed about a McCain presidency.TV Newser has contacted the Commission on Presidential Debates for a comment but has not received a response as of yet. According to a poll they have on their site, the majority of respondents think Ifill should simply disclose the news of her book to viewers on debate night.
World Mag thinks McCain's campaign should have done more homework about Ifill before agreeing to allow her to moderate and that debate organizers and ifill had an "obligation to fully disclose this information to them,"
WGIR speaks to the concerns being expressed about Ifill's ability to be unbiased.
Although the WND piece was published last night, Drudge has it headlined on his main page today.
Greta Van Susteren, former criminal and civil trial lawyer and current host of "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, asks if this should be considered a conflict of interest.
Should Ifill be acting as moderator for the debate considering she has a vested interest, financially, in the outcome of the election?
If so, should she disclose that self-interest to the viewers on Thursday night?
[Update] McCain's response via Fox News, when Carl Cameron asks McCain if he still supports ifill moderating the VP debate. (YouTube of McCain answering, found here)
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. Does this help that if she has written a book that’s favorable to Sen. Obama? Probably not. But I have confidence that Gwen Ifill will do a professional job.