Retire the Debate Commission – WSJ
C-SPAN has suspended correspondent Steve Scully for lying about a
message to a critic of President Trump. The network is trying to protect its reputation for nonpartisan fairness, and we wish we could say the same about the Commission on Presidential Debates.
The commission chose Mr. Scully to moderate the second presidential debate that was scheduled for this past Thursday. But after the President criticized Mr. Scully as a “Never Trumper,” Mr. Scully sent a Twitter message to Trump opponent Anthony Scaramucci that read: “@Scaramucci should I respond to Trump”?
After the message became public, Mr. Scully lied to C-SPAN and the commission by claiming his Twitter feed had been hacked. This was implausible, and skeptics quickly turned up other times that Mr. Scully had used that excuse for an unfortunate tweet.
At that point the commission’s reputation was on the line. But instead of forgoing comment until it could get to the truth, commission co-chair Frank Fahrenkopf told Fox News Radio that Mr. Scully’s Twitter message “didn’t happen” and “he was hacked.” Later this week Mr. Scully finally admitted the truth to C-SPAN and the commission.
This new hit to the commission’s credibility comes shortly after its high-handedness led to the cancellation of the second debate. It announced the debate would be virtual before the candidates had agreed to it. Mr. Trump wouldn’t attend, and the debate was killed. As for the commission being made up of Democrats and Republicans, former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole says he knows every Republican on the commission and it concerns him that not one supports Mr. Trump.
The Commission on Presidential Debates is an example of another institution that seemed like a good idea but over time has become a creature of Washington’s political class. Its moderators typically tilt left and it acts as if it’s bigger than the candidates. This year should be its last as the arbiter of debates. If it won’t go away on its own, the next GOP nominee should refuse to cooperate and negotiate the rules and timing of the debates in 2024 with the Democratic nominee.
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Appeared in the October 17, 2020, print edition.