ABC’s Martha Raddatz will be one of two moderators of Sunday’s second presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. With so much attention being placed on debate moderators this cycle, especially given Trump’s tendency to feud with them, what kind of a reporter is Raddatz? Is she slanted towards one political party or another?
In general, Raddatz does a fairly good job of being objective in her reporting. If she is registered with one party or another, that information is not public, and she certainly does not advertise her political beliefs like a Sean Hannity does, for example.
Still, Raddatz has received her fair share of accusations of bias. One of those came when it was discovered that Raddatz had Barack Obama at her wedding in 1991. But that was years before Obama was a politician, and he was there because he was friends with the groom, Julius Genachowski. Obama and Genachowski had attended Harvard together, and Genachowski would later be appointed chairman of the FCC. Raddatz and Genachowski are no longer together.
This connection to Obama was actually raised by conservatives back in 2012 when Raddatz moderated the vice presidential debate between Paul Ryan and Joe Biden. But both ABC News and the Commission on Presidential Debates defended Raddatz at the time.
“This is absurd,” ABC said in a statement before the 2012 debate. “Martha Raddatz is known for her tough, fair reporting, which is why it was no surprise to her colleagues inside and outside ABC News that she was chosen by the Commission on President Debates for this assignment.”
The Mitt Romney campaign was aware of Raddatz’s relationship with Obama and Genachowski but still had no issue with her moderating the debate, according to The Huffington Post. After the debate, conservative media outlet Brietbart complained that Raddatz had hit Ryan with pointed questions nine times and did the same with Biden only once. Many conservatives also took issue with the fact that she didn’t stop Biden from interrupting Ryan, saying that it was as if Raddatz and Biden were both teaming up on Ryan.
The Media Research Center released a report saying that out of 48 questions asked by Raddatz in the vice presidential debate, they deemed 40 percent anti-Romney, 25 percent anti-Obama, and 35 percent neutral.
Fox News’ Dan Gainor also wrote a piece the day after the debate entitled “Liberal media split over how to spin Raddatz and Biden’s performance at debate,” and he had this to say about Raddatz’ performance:
“The 2012 vice presidential debate was sometimes a 2-on-1 fight, with Biden and moderator Martha Raddatz both interrupting Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan repeatedly…Raddatz took a liberal tack on abortion and let Biden control the debate tone by never shutting up…Raddatz’s passive tolerance of Biden’s massive number of interruptions was enhanced by her own periodic interruptions of Ryan.
Some on the right have also accused Raddatz of going light on Hillary Clinton throughout the years. When Clinton testified in front of Captiol Hill about Benghazi, Raddatz described Clinton as “combative, charming, disarming and clearly ready for a fight.” Conservatives also pointed to a 2012 piece where Raddatz says of Clinton, “Let’s face it, Hillary is cool.” This latter example was in the context of talking about Clinton’s fashion and about her high approval rating at the time.
But these moments are few and far between, and Raddatz has gone plenty tough on Democrats throughout her career. Just last month, she conducted a pretty tough interview with vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine, asking him somewhat rhetorically if the American people deserve a better explanation for Hillary Clinton’s email controversy. She also hammered Kaine about Hillary’s avoidance of the press, not letting him pivot to another topic. And when she moderated a Democratic debate in 2015, Raddatz asked Hillary Clinton a particularly tough question about her foreign policy views.
“It’s looked very much to me like we’re already in ground combat [in Syria in Iraq] in frequent trips I’ve made there,” she said. “So are you fooling Americans when you say ‘We’re not putting American combat troops back into Syria and Iraq’?”
Raddatz’s co-moderator in the second presidential debate is Anderson Cooper, who, unlike Raddatz, has never really dealt with any accusations of bias and is generally respected on both sides. In fact, he does not even vote because he wants to make sure he covers the election fairly.