Last Tuesday, The New York Post’s celebrity news arm, Page Six, published an article by Emily Smith discussing a reported conflict between CNN and ABC over Sunday’s presidential debate. Smith cited unnamed sources who called meetings about the debate between the two networks “a challenge” and “acrimonious at best.”
Much of the dispute has allegedly surrounded the two hosts: Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz. Cooper is the anchor of “Anderson Cooper 360” on CNN’s primetime lineup, and Raddatz is ABC News’ chief global affairs correspondent. According to the source, both candidates “want to shine” and want to avoid charges of bias.
The conflict has seeped into the promotion of the event as well. Neither of the networks’ advertisements mention the other candidate – CNN has been advertising the debate as “moderated by Anderson Cooper,” while according to Smith, ABC has been promoting Raddatz as a “co-anchor.”
CNN could really say that Martha Raddatz is also a moderator of Sunday’s debate. It’s not just Anderson Cooper.
— Jessica Taylor (@JessicaTaylor) October 7, 2016
By the way, CNN, Martha Raddatz is ALSO moderating tomorrow’s debate. Tell the whole truth. #CNNDebate
— Ted Heller (@TedHeller) October 8, 2016
— Phil Davis (@PhilDavisSC) October 8, 2016
The source also claimed that James Goldston, president of ABC News, was “infuriated” that CNN had “erased the name of the only female host of a presidential debate this cycle, and someone who was widely praised for her performance last time.”
Why does CNN promo for Sunday’s debate just list Anderson Cooper as the host? Where’s Martha Raddatz?
— Steven Rich (@dataeditor) October 5, 2016
CNN is promo’ing the second debate as being moderated by Anderson cooper. No mention on chyron of Martha Raddatz
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) October 5, 2016
In addition to this conflict, both Raddatz and Cooper have been “tipping their hands a bit” on how they’ll be approaching Sunday evening’s debate. Raddatz? She’ll be attempting to hit the candidates hard on substantive issues that Trump and Clinton dodged in the previous debate, like the possibility of an “no first use” nuclear policy in the U.S.
“I think all of us at the table last night were saying, ‘[Trump] said what?'” Raddatz said in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “We had no idea what he was talking about in the end, whether he wanted first use or whether he didn’t want any first use. Maybe that next debate. We’ll see.”
How about Cooper? It sounds like we’ll be following in the footsteps of Lester Holt, the moderator of the last Presidential debate, as far as getting uninvolved as possible.
“Lester Holt has been — some have criticized him for not being enough of a traffic cop, for not stopping Donald Trump from interrupting. I think there is a value in stepping back. You don’t want it to be about you,” Cooper said while interviewing Phil Donahue, former daytime talk show host, last week. “You want it to be a discussion about the two, and if one is interrupting the other, that tells the audience something, and people can make up their own minds about what exactly that means. I’m not sure it’s always good for the moderator to be stepping in and trying to direct and keep everything to time.”
In addition to having two seemingly feuding moderators from two different networks, Sunday night’s debate is in a “town hall” style format – where half of the questions will come from the audience and giving less time for Raddatz and Cooper to “moderate.”
Sunday night’s debate will be one to watch, and will be sure to top off a volatile weekend in political news.