C-SPAN’s Steve Scully, who was set to moderate the planned October 15 debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, sent a tweet Thursday evening that made many in pro-Trump media question his objectivity. On Friday morning, the Commission on Presidential Debates claimed that Scully’s Twitter account had been hacked. But on October 15, C-SPAN issued a statement saying Scully had admitted his account wasn’t hacked.
According to the C-SPAN statement, Scully said, “Out of frustration, I sent a brief tweet addressed to Anthony Scaramucci. The next morning when I saw that this tweet had created a new controversy, I falsely claimed that my Twitter account had been hacked.”
Around 10 p.m. on October 8, Scully tweeted at former Trump press secretary turned Trump critic Anthony Scaramucci, tagging him and asking, “Should I respond to Trump.”
It was unclear what Scully was reacting to, although Trump had been on a spree of questioning his impartiality as a moderator, claiming Scully was a “Never Trumper” on Sean Hannity’s Thursday night Fox Show.
Scully, the political editor, senior executive producer and host of Washington Journal at C-SPAN, has been suspended indefinitely by the network, according to the statement, adding that Scully understands he “made a serious mistake.” C-SPAN added, “We are very saddened by this news and do not condone his actions.”
C-SPAN said, “During his 30 years at C-SPAN, Steve consistently demonstrated his fairness and professionalism as a journalist. He has built a reservoir of goodwill among those he has interviewed, fellow journalists, our viewers and with us. … After some distance from this episode, we believe in his ability to continue to contribute at C-SPAN.”
Scully added, “For several weeks, I was subjected to relentless criticism on social media and in conservative news outlets regarding my role as moderator for the second presidential debate, including attacks aimed directly at my family. This culminated Thursday when I heard President Trump go on national television twice and falsely attack me by name.” Scully said sending the tweet and then saying he was hacked were “both errors in judgement for which I am totally responsible, I apologize.”
Scully said, “These actions have let down a lot of people, including my colleagues at C-SPAN, where I have worked for the past 30 years, professional colleagues in the media and the team at the Commission on Presidential Debates. I ask for forgiveness as I try to move forward in a moment of reflection and disappointment in myself.”
It Appeared That Scully May Have Intended to Send Scaramucci a Direct Message, But Instead Tweeted & Conservative Media Pounced
When Scully tagged and tweeted at Scarmucci, apparently asking for advice on dealing with Trump’s advance criticism, Scaramucci quote-tweeted him and said, “Ignore. He’s having a hard enough time. Some more bad stuff about to go down.”
Many users posited that Scully intended to direct message, or DM, Scaramucci for advice, but that has not been confirmed.
Federalist editor Mollie Hemingway noted the odd exchange and called it a “horrific problem” for the debate commission.
“Moderator Steve Scully deleted this tweet,” Hemingway wrote. “Neither he nor the Presidential Debate Commission have addressed why he was asking a Trump loather for counsel on responding to Trump. Horrific problem here for the ‘independent’ debate commission, in their worst year ever.”
Donald Trump Jr., the president’s first son, was also incensed by the Twitter incident.
“Are you kidding me,” he said. “Steve Scully, the former Biden intern and moderator of the next debate, thinks he’s DM-ing … but he’s doing it out loud. Yea, totally not a setup. Journalism is dead.”
Scully did work as an intern for Biden in the 1970s, when he was in college and Biden was a senator, Scully said in a Cable Center interview.
Frank Fahrenkopf, of the Debate Commission, Told Brian Kilmeade That Scully Was ‘Hacked,’ Before the C-SPAN Host Admitted to Making That Up
Speaking on Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade’s radio show on October 9, Frank Fahrenkopf, a co-chair of the debate commission said that Scully was a man of “great integrity” and alleged that he was hacked.
“Steve is a man of great integrity, OK?” Fahrenkopf said. “I don’t know this question about whether he tweeted something out or not, I do know, and you’ll probably pick up on it in a minute, that he was hacked… Apparently, there’s something now that’s been on television and the radio saying that he talked to Scaramucci… He was hacked. It didn’t happen.”
C-SPAN also issued a statement saying authorities were investigating the tweet, and that Scully did not “originate” it. According to C-SPAN, Scully told the network and the debate commission he had lied about being hacked on October 13. It is not clear if any investigation into the false hacking claim actually occurred.
Scaramucci chimed back in, urging people not to “cancel” Scully over the incident.
“I accept [Scully] at his word,” Scaramucci said October 9, before Scully admitted to lying. “Let’s not cancel anymore people from our culture for absolutely something like this. It’s insignificant. He is an objective journalist.”
Fox News’ Britt McHenry also came to Scully’s defense, calling him “one of the most honest, ethical, hardworking journalist I know.”
Skepticism generally abounded on the right, however, when it came to Fahrenkopf’s hacking claim.
Trump Jr. mocked the claim and suggested it could be “Russian or Chinese election interference.”
“If he was hacked, he should report this to the FBI ASAP,” Trump Jr. said. “If he doesn’t report it to the FBI, presumably he’s more worried about filing a false report … though they wouldn’t prosecute a Dem anyway. Which one is it, Steve?”
Journalist Yashar Ali, no fan of the president’s, also said he didn’t buy Scully’s explanation.
“This is not going to go well,” Ali said. “If he was indeed hacked, it should be very easy to prove.” He also pointed to two other occurrences, in 2012 and 2013, where Scully claimed to have been hacked.