The ABC moderators did a notably bad job by avoiding substantive issues and focusing their energies on a trivial and “relentless stream of ‘gotcha’ questions,” in the words of my boss, Katrina vanden Heuvel. That’s why Editor & Publisher called this debate “perhaps the most embarrassing performance by the media in a major presidential debate in years.”
During the first half of the conversation, moderators George Stephanopoulos and Charles Gibson avoided any mention of real issues. As the Los Angeles Times noted yesterday,”With the moderators and Clinton raising assorted questions about Obama’s past for the first half of the debate, issues received relatively short shrift. Not until 50 minutes in was a policy issue–Iraq–asked about by the moderators.”
The insipid line of questioning took us through tired campaign non-issues like Clinton’s Bosnia gaffe, Obama’s talk about “bitter” small-town voters, the rhetoric of the Illinois Senator’s former pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and the fact that Obama rarely wears an American flag lapel pin. The most irrelevant line of questioning came from Stephanopoulos who tried to interrogate Obama on his glancing relationship with University of Illinois at Chicago professor and former Weather Underground leader William Ayers. Obama’s “ties” to Ayers have been an obsession of Fox News host Sean Hannity,who according to Salon reportedly pressed Stephanopoulos to ask about Ayers at the debate.
In the eloquent words of an open letter to ABC written by an ad-hoc group of journalists and media analysts, including many Nation writers, “The debate was a revolting descent into tabloid journalism and a gross disservice to Americans concerned about the great issues facing the nation and the world…ABC seemed less interested in provoking serious discussion than in trying to generate cheap shot sound-bites for later rebroadcast. The questions asked by Mr. Stephanopoulos and Mr. Gibson were a disgrace, and the subsequent attempts to justify them by claiming that they reflect citizens’ interest are an insult to the intelligence of those citizens and ABC’s viewers.”
If you agree, please sign on to MoveOn.org’s new petition demanding that ABC and other networks focus their resources on the issues that affect people’s lives, and support FAIR’s efforts to keep up the pressure on ABC and other outlets.