Working the refs: Conservative media rush to claim O'Donnell-Coons debate was biased

››› ››› CHRISTINE SCHWEN & ERIC SCHROECK

Following the debate between Delaware senatorial candidates Christine O'Donnell and Chris Coons, conservative media have rushed to paint the moderators as biased, either by providing no evidence or by pointing to a question that is commonly asked in debates, as proof of bias.

Conservatives reflexively call the whole debate biased, give no examples

Tantaros: It looked like O'Donnell "was running against Wolf Blitzer." During the October 14 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Fox News contributor Andrea Tantaros asserted that "if you watch the debate in its entirety ... it really was three on one." She added that "at some points I thought actually she was running against Wolf Blitzer for Delaware Senate."

RedState: "Blitzer aided Coons the best he could." In an October 13 RedState post, Aaron Gardner wrote that "Blitzer aided Coons the best he could" and that to "the unbiased eye, O'Donnell clearly won."

Fox Nation: "O'Donnell Debates 'Bearded Marxist' and CNN 'Moderators.' " In an October 14 Fox Nation post headlined, "O'Donnell Debates 'Bearded Marxist' and CNN 'Moderators,' " the Fox Nation initially posted two clips of the debate and linked to a New York Times article that did not discuss O'Donnell debating the moderators. They later added two more video clips and a link to a National Review Online (NRO) post on the debate.

Malkin: Debate was "three on one" and "it was very difficult to discern who was running for office." Later during the October 14 Fox & Friends, Michelle Malkin claimed that the debate was "three on one -- three liberals against one conservative, which is basically the average ratio when we have to debate anyway. And it was very difficult to discern who was running for office there, Wolf Blitzer or Chris Coons." She added that "the unfairness of the entire format was apparent to any really discerning voter or viewer in Delaware" and that "it's ridiculous that these debates so often are controlled by leftist media organizations, and then they're imbued with somehow this sense of fairness."

NRO cried foul that O'Donnell was asked about evolution

NRO: "[A]wful" moderators turned debate into "a show trial" by being "hell-bent on pinning down O'Donnell's view on evolution." In an October 13 NRO post, Jim Geraghty wrote that the debate moderators, CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Delaware First Media's Nancy Karibjanian, were "pretty awful" and "seemed hell bent on ... well, the metaphor burning a witch comes to mind." Geraghty also stated:

The moderators were pretty awful. Both Blitzer and the local reporter seemed hell bent on ... well, the metaphor burning a witch comes to mind.

Yes, Christine O'Donnell has a lot of quirks, a lot of questionable decisions in her past, and a lot of evasive answers about those bad decisions. But it was pretty clear that neither moderator was all that interested in holding Coons's feet to the fire, or interested in what he had to say at all. CNN's Wolf Blitzer, the better of the two, was hell-bent on pinning down O'Donnell's view on evolution. And he was the better of the two. This was the moderators' chance to play hardball with their designated Villain Du Jour, and the fact that CNN aired much of this debate live illustrates that the MSM doesn't just want to see O'Donnell beaten; they want to see her ... well, metaphorically burned at the stake in the town square for her audacity.

Look, you read this site. You know I'm not a fan of Christine O'Donnell. But she deserved better than this, and so did the voters. This was supposed to be a debate, not a show trial.

But asking candidates about evolution is common

Moderator to Obama: "[I]f one of your daughters asked you ... 'Daddy, did God really create the world in six days?' What would you say?" In an April 13, 2008, Democratic presidential primary forum, co-moderator Campbell Brown asked then-Sen. Barack Obama: "Senator, if one of your daughters asked you -- and maybe they already have -- 'Daddy, did God really create the world in six days?' What would you say?"

Matthews asked Richardson, "Should any public school teacher in the United States be fired for teaching evolution?" In a June 19, 2007, interview (accessed via Nexis), MSNBC's Chris Matthews asked then-presidential candidate Bill Richardson, "Should any public school teacher in the United States be fired for teaching evolution?" He later asked, "Should anybody be fired -- a public school teacher -- for questioning evolution?" Similarly, Matthews asked then-candidate Hillary Clinton, "[D]o you believe a public school teacher should ever be fired for teaching evolution?"

Debate moderators asked Huckabee, Brownback about positions on evolution. In a June 5, 2007, GOP presidential primary debate, co-moderator Tom Fahey asked then-presidential candidate Mike Huckabee: "What do you believe? Is it the story of creation, as it is reported in the Bible or described in the Bible?" Later, co-moderator Wolf Blitzer asked then-candidate Sam Brownback, "[Y]ou recently elaborated on your position on this, and I wonder if you'd want to spend 30 seconds and tell our audience out there where you stand on the issue of evolution."

GOP presidential primary candidates were asked if they "believe in evolution." In a May 3, 2007, GOP presidential primary debate, co-moderator Jim VandeHei asked Sen. John McCain, "Do you believe in evolution?" VandeHei then asked the 10 candidates, "I'm curious, is there anybody on the stage that does not agree -- believe in evolution?"

Moderator asked Edwards, "Do you believe in evolution or do you believe in creationism?" In a June 4, 2007, Democratic presidential primary forum, co-moderator Soledad O'Brien asked then-presidential candidate John Edwards, "Do you believe in evolution or do you believe in creationism?"

Right-wing media declare questioning the wisdom of O'Donnell's witch ad "unfair"

Fox & Friends declares the debate "an unfair fight." On October 14, Fox & Friends repeatedly asked if questioning O'Donnell about why she created an ad declaring she is not a witch was "unfair." For example, after airing a clip of Blitzer asking O'Donnell about the ad, co-host Gretchen Carlson asked: "So, is three against one a fair debate?" Additionally, onscreen text during that segment repeatedly asked if the "moderators treat[ed] O'Donnell unfairly":

Foxunfairdebate

NRO: "Blitzer decided to give O'Donnell a lecture" about witch ad. In an October 13 NRO post, Katrina Trinko wrote that "Wolf Blitzer decided to give O'Donnell a lecture at one point about her new ad starting off with the phrase 'I'm not a witch,' telling her that she had given the controversy legs by mentioning it in her ad."

But many conservatives agree ad was a "mistake"

Despite criticizing Blitzer for the question, Fox & Friends previously called the ad "a huge mistake." About 45 minutes before Carlson asked if the witch question meant the moderators were biased, co-host Brian Kilmeade called the ad "a huge mistake." Co-host Steve Doocy agreed.

Tantaros: Blitzer's question was "absolutely a fair question." Carlson asked Fox News contributor Andrea Tantaros if the debate was "three against one, or was that a fair question to ask?" Tantaros replied: "I think it was absolutely a fair question, but if you watch the debate in its entirety, Gretchen, it really was three on one." She added that "at some points I thought actually she was running against Wolf Blitzer for Delaware Senate."

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.