Trump’s Debate Moderator Wish List Is Stacked With Fox News Stars and Pushovers

Doug Mills The Trump campaign released a list of suggested moderators for this year’s presidential…

Doug Mills
Doug Mills

The Trump campaign released a list of suggested moderators for this year’s presidential debates and, perhaps unsurprisingly, it is loaded with many of the president’s favorite right-wing pundits and Fox News personalities.

As the president pushes for more debates against former Vice President Joe Biden, his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani on Wednesday sent the presiding commission a letter requesting a fourth debate and an early September start to the events due to early mail-in voting.

Calling the current timetable “an outdated dinosaur,” Giuliani wrote that by the time the first debate—currently scheduled for Sept. 29—occurs, “as many as eight million Americans in 16 states will have already started voting.” Therefore, per Giuliani, even if the commission won’t approve an additional debate, the campaign wants to move the final debate scheduled for Oct. 22 to the first week of September, before the first ballots are sent out.

The letter concluded with a list of 24 names the Trump campaign submitted for “consideration as moderators” since Biden has “confirmed he is indeed available to leave his basement for the fall debate.” (Team Trump has repeatedly implied that the vice president is looking to “weasel” out of the debates.)

A large portion of the names would be familiar to the most devoted of Fox News viewers. While the president didn’t include his close confidants like Sean Hannity or Lou Dobbs, and left off the denizens of his favorite morning show Fox & Friends, the campaign included several pundits and personalities featured across his favorite Fox programming.

Rachel Campos-Duffy, a Fox News contributor and former Real World cast member, made the cut despite her role as a sycophantic pro-Trump commentator across Fox’s opinion shows. Campos-Duffy is married to former Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), a current CNN contributor who now serves as an official Trump surrogate.

Fox Business Network anchor Maria Bartiromo also made the list. As a friend of the president’s, dating back to their time as New York media icons, Bartiromo has morphed into one of the more overtly pro-Trump hosts on that network. She is one of the president’s go-to interviewers as she will often lob softball questions and sing his praises during their on-air chats. The former CNBC reporter has also made a habit—much like Dobbs and Hannity—of railing against a so-called “deep state” plot against Trump.

Other Fox names on the list came from the network’s ostensible “hard news” side. Anchors like Bret Baier, Shannon Bream, Bill Hemmer, and Harris Faulkner all made the cut. Faulkner was accused of being deferential to Trump during a 2018 chat—which included the question “What do you love about being president?”—though she was a bit more aggressive in her most recent interview, in which Trump made bizarre claims about Black Lives Matter and Abraham Lincoln. Baier, meanwhile, is a centerpiece of the network’s “hard news” operation and has often pushed back on the president’s attacks on his fellow news-side and polling colleagues.

The campaign also included Fox Business Network hosts like Dagen McDowell, Charles Payne, and Gerry Baker, all of whom wear their conservative politics on their sleeves and repeatedly boost the president’s policies and positions. Additionally, the list included Fox Business correspondent Susan Li, who most recently came under fire for a segment—during Baier’s show—in which she tied historic stock-market gains to violence against Black men.

Outside of the Fox News bubble, Team Trump requested several high-profile conservative pundits and CPAC fixtures. Talk-radio host Hugh Hewitt, a former MSNBC host and conservative intellectual turned unapologetic Trump booster, was included on the list, as was right-wing radio talker Larry Elder, who regularly appears on Hannity’s show. 

Other names on the president’s wish list, such as Christian Broadcasting Network star David Brody and The Hill’s populist conservative commentator Saagar Enjeti, have sat down for friendly interviews with Trump in the past. And New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin, who has found his reliably pro-Trump op-eds routinely quoted on the president’s Twitter feed, is also on the campaign’s want list.

The Trump campaign also highlighted several CNBC stars who are friendly to his politics: Squawk Box co-host Joe Kernen, who was recently called out on-air by his colleague for his seemingly blind devotion to Trump; and Rick Santelli, the godfather of the Tea Party movement, who infamously suggested in March that everyone in the U.S. should deliberately infect themselves with the coronavirus in order to lessen the outbreak’s impact on the stock market.

But aside from the usual gaggle of Fox News stars and conservative pundits, the Trump campaign included some eyebrow-raising names like Today show host Hoda Kotb and respected broadcast journalists like CBS News reporters Norah O’Donnell and Major Garrett, Univision’s Ambrosio Hernandez, Bloomberg’s Kevin Cirilli, and ABC News’ Tom Llamas and David Muir. 

O’Donnell, in particular, is already likely to moderate a debate should her network be tapped to host one. Same goes for Muir, who in May was roundly criticized for his interview with the president, in which Trump effectively steamrolled the ABC anchor who failed to push back on the president’s numerous lies and mischaracterizations about a deadly pandemic.

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