Scarborough: Biased Debate Moderators Haven't Been Problem in the Past

October 30th, 2015 8:27 AM

When this NewsBuster began preparing today's item, the focus was going to be on Joe Scarborough's statement on today's Morning Joe that "90% of the people in our business vote for Democrats and Democratic primaries." Not that it was something we didn't already know [though query whether even 10% of MSMers are Republicans], but refreshing to hear it so starkly stated.

But preparing the video clip, something more stunning emerged. Scarborough actually suggested that the problem of biased debate moderators is something new: "this is not something we've had a problem with in the past." Say what? Do the names George Stephanopoulos and Candy Crowley ring a bell, just to cite two examples of outrageous moderator bias from the last presidential cycle? 

In fairness to Scarborough, perhaps he was alluding to cycles before 2012.  He did cite Tim Russert, Jim Lehrer and, curiously, Brian Williams, as moderators who played it fair in the past. But our brethren at MRC can surely cite numerous examples of anti-Republican moderator bias that pre-date 2012.

Williams Down the Middle? As for Joe's claim that Brian Williams played his debate questioning "down the middle," back in 2011 Brent Baker documented how Williams hit Rick Perry from the left, including citing how “your state has executed 234 death row inmates,” and demanding to know whether he’s “struggled to sleep at night with the idea that any one of those might have been innocent?”

The Education President: readers will remember the 1992 presidential debate in which moderator Carole Simpson snidely referred to George H.W. Bush as "the education president." In 2007, Simpson blurted out her endorsement of Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy.

Note:  Willie Geist challenged Joe's assumption that Jake Tapper is a Democrat. Tapper plays it fairer than the great majority of his MSM colleagues. Going back more than 20 years, he did serve as press secretary to a Dem congresswoman, and later wrote for It should also be noted, however, that Tapper has earned the respect of many veterans and others for his authorship of The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor, which recounts the heroic actions of US troops at a vulnerable outpost in Afghanistan.


MIKA BRZEZINSKI: It seems to me the process itself and some of the problems that the moderators have had have played into a narrative that there's bias, and I don't think this is true, but that everybody asking all the questions in all these debates would never vote in a Republican primary. We can't have moderators you don't feel a sense of balance in the mix. 

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Listen, if that were the test, we would never have any of the other debates again. I'm not being a jerk. You know, like 90% of the people in our business vote for Democrats and Democratic primaries. 

MIKA: Well, then there should be even more of an effort to have respect and ask fair questions. 

JOE: I never once said, we talk about Anderson [Cooper], I've never seen Anderson at Tea Party meetings, you know, but Anderson played it straight. Jim Lehrer also played it straight. I'm afraid, Willie, this is sort of the cable news culture, the prime-time, cable-news culture seeping into our presidential debates. This is not something we've had a problem with in the past . . . 

JOE: Katty, remember, like Jake Tapper. That's a perfect example. I'm just going to assume he's a Democrat --

WILLIE GEIST: I don't know if that's true. 

JOE: -- because I assume anybody in media other than me is a Democrat. But Jake plays it straight. He does not make it about himself. I've never seen him make it about himself. And it's like Brian Williams. Brian did debates with Tim Russert. Straight down the middle. Russert was a big Democrat. Big liberal. But you know what, that kind of made him even tougher on Democrats because Tim always wanted to be extra fair. 

MIKA: You're tough on your party.