Pro-Obama Book Brings into Question Debate Moderator’s Objectivity
October 2, 2008 - 6:00 PMAlaska Gov. Sarah Palin isn't the only one with something to prove in the vice presidential debate. The debate's moderator, Gwen Ifill, will be under close scrutiny to see how even-handed she is in her treatment both of the Republican nominee and Sen. Joe Biden.
It turns out that Ifill, host of PBS’ “Washington Week” and senior correspondent on “The Newshour with Jim Lehrer,” has just authored a book lauding the success of black politicians, including Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.
The book, “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama,” will hit the shelves on Jan. 20, which is presidential Inauguration Day.
The book recounts the deeds and personal achievements of four prominent black politicians, all Democrats: Obama, Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick, Rep. Arthur Davis (D-Ala.) and Mayor Corey Booker of Newark, N.J.
The book, which has been characterized as a “glowing profile of Obama,” reportedly praises the four liberal Democrats as politicians who “have changed the game.”
Media reaction to the news of Ifill’s book – and the prospect of her ability to fairly and objectively referee the debate – is negative, especially considering her supposed financial stake in the election.
ABC’s “Good Morning America” news anchor Chris Cuomo mentioned the book on Wednesday, noting that it "has some conservatives claiming she will be biased” at the debate.
Armstrong Williams, conservative talk show radio host, told Fox News that the book deal “brings her credibility in doing this into question.”
Juan Williams, a National Public Radio correspondent, who appears as a political commentator on the Fox News Channel, said that Ifill’s current role in the debate was not favorable to the book’s success.
“Clearly the book’s not going to do well unless Obama wins,” he told Fox News. “The question now becomes whether or not this book has pushed her a little bit past the line and whether in fact it may be a disadvantage for the likes of Joe Biden, because it’ll mean she might be going out of her way to be differential and show that she’s not biased. It just screws it up in that way.”
Critics say Ifill’s past does not help her credibility. Critics accused her of “gushing” over Michelle Obama and her children on MSNBC this past summer, praising them as “Cosby with Norman Rockwell overtones.”
She also wrote a laudatory article about the Obama family in Essence magazine, “The Obamas: Portrait of an American Family.”
Ifill, meanwhile, had little to say after Palin’s speech at the Republican National Convention weeks ago, despite considerable attention by other media.
Her only remark was that it “whipped up” the partisan crowd in Minneapolis. She did say that Palin had “belittled” Obama “at every opportunity,” mocking “the size of his state” and his community organizer status.
Past quotes by Ifill also reveal some possible left-leaning political views.
She hinted at skepticism of the anti-Communists when she remarked on PBS that, after World War II, “we went through decades of Red-hunting, Red-baiting, fear of communists, and then all of a sudden the Berlin Wall, that symbol of everything that happened, fell.”
During live MSNBC coverage of the Starr Report coming to Capitol Hill in 1998, she compared the report on Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky to a terrorist bombing.
“There’s very little they can do about this,” she said, when “someone drives . . . a truck bomb up to the steps of the Capitol and just dumps it on them.”
In 2003, Ifill alleged that “the unemployment rate is at record highs, and somehow he [Bush] says this is Congress’ fault,” apparently forgetting that unemployment was much higher during the Great Depression and throughout the 1930s until the entry of America into World War II in 1941.
Ifill, meanwhile, said her only concern for Thursday’s debate “is getting straight answers.”