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Uproar grows over Gwen Ifill, debate moderator and Obama book author


As if enough delicious edginess already didn't surround Thursday's Sarah Palin/Joe Biden debate, conservative consternation is rising over concerns that moderator Gwen Ifill brings an inherent self-interest favoring the Democratic ticket to the table.

News reports about a broken ankle suffered by the PBS newswoman served to spotlight a political book she's written that's due to publish on inauguration day. Its title: "The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama."

The blurb touting the book says Ifill "surveys the American political landscape, shedding new light on the impact of Barack Obama’s stunning presidential campaign and introducing the emerging young African American politicians forging a bold new path to political power."

Presumably, an Obama victory in November would improve the book's marketability. By the same token, as can be attested by scores of D.C.-based journalists who have put their reporting and observations into book form, it's the rare political tome that even comes close to best-selling status.

Those raising questions about Ifill's objectivity include well-known conservative blogger Michelle Malkin. In a Tuesday night posting that includes her column on the matter, she relates that "tons of readers" have recommended that Palin "open her debate remarks by congratulating Ifill on her book and asking her to tell everyone the title."

Now that would get the proceedings off to a roaring start.

(UPDATE: John McCain just told Fox News that he has no problem with Ifill moderating the debate. "I think that Gwen Ifill is a professional and I think she will do a totally objective job, because she is a highly respected professional," he said.)

-- Don Frederick

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There is a good reason for the anti-intellectual extreme right to be suspicious of Gween Ifill: she is writing a book! Remember Sarah Palin making fun of Obama in her speech at the Republican Convention because he had writen two (!) books?
What reminds me of the infamous Herman Goering's sentence: "whenever I hear the word culture, I reach for my Browning!"

This just means that Ifill will be tougher on Biden than Paylin at the VP debate.

The nation already is skeptical about the fairness and objectivity of the mainstream media regarding election coverage ... so, why in the world is Gwen Ifill the debate moderator, when she is writing a book about Obama ... especially since her book sales would increase if Obama/Biden win? The moderator in a debate ... especially one of this importance and magnitude ... should be seen as completely fair, objective and above reproach. This is a terrible choice, and could easily have been remedied by choosing from hundreds of other more objective potential moderators. I can imagine the outcry if Michelle Malkin, or Ann Coulter was chosen as the moderator for the first Vice Presidential debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden. FURTHER MORE ... Everyone knows that Roland Martin is in the tank for Obama ... and regarding his call for Palin to either 'put up, or shut up' ... for millions of Americans, we still feel that Obama never adequately explained why he chose to spend TWENTY YEARS, yes TWENTY YEARS, in Jeremiah Wright's anti-American, racist, black liberation church, which gave a life time achievement award to Louis Farrakhan, and Obama only quit the church due to public outrage and personal ambition.

Gwen Ifill should recuse herself from this debate. She cannot expect to be fairly un-biased when she has a personal, financial interest in the outcome of the election.
Her strong feelings for an Obama victory also make her
a bewildering choice.
Let's just quickly pick someone who is truly neutral and keep this clean.

If Iliff has ANY character or integrity, she will immediately remove herself from being the moderator.
There is a shockingly clear conflict of interest here.

If Obama supporters are honest with themselves, they would have to admit that they would be furious if the tables were turned.

If it was another moderator who was publishing a book called 'the age of McCain' the media would be all over it like a cheap suit. Once again just another classic example of the double standard. Why are the media not asking the tough questions regarding fannie and freddie and the outrageous incestuous relationship between them and top democrats, that is the real genesis of our financial crisis. But that story does not fit the media narrative of, it's all george bush and the republicans fault, the media should be ashamed of itself.

I find it quite droll that Malkin would criticize ANYONE for being partisan. I suppose not wholly unexpected from her though. She is a real shame, and a pity.

It is unfair for Gwen Ifill to moderate the VP debate, since she has a great deal to gain from an Obama victory. Her book, titled “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama,” is due to be released on January 20th, 2009, on Presidential Inauguration Day. She will have a blockbuster in all the bookstores if Obama wins.
From editorial review: “In THE BREAKTHROUGH, veteran journalist Gwen Ifill surveys the American political landscape, shedding new light on the impact of Barack Obama’s stunning presidential campaign and introducing the emerging young African American politicians forging a bold new path to political power. ”
It is time for Gwen Ifill to recuse herself from the debate. She has a dog in this fight. There must be an impartial moderator, one who has nothing to lose or to gain. Ifill is rooting for Obama, and banking on an Obama victory.
Email Janet H. Brown, Executive Director of the Debates Commission: .
Email "Washington Week in Review with Gwen Ifill":
Call the Commission on Presidential Debates at: 202-872-1020.
Call PBS ombudsman Michael Getler for a complaint, for journalistic integrity of their staff: 703-739-5290.
Email Michael Getler at:

What? They didn't notice Ifill's black before? Lol, likely story.

They just think that if a MAN is the moderator, they can get away with more of the poor Palin delicate flower routine. How pathetic. Hillary had to work harder, and know more than all the men, and Palin has a lower bar? She's an abomination to women's equality.

Those who are quick to say Ifill is an inappropriate choice for the VP debate moderator just simply don't get it: watch PBS, then you'll know Ifill is one of the best moderator that we can get. Plus, conflict of interests? Ask your stupid Palin, who obviously didn't care much about it. Some Americans are just stupid enough (I'm talking about you, so-called 'conservatives'!)

- Real conservative

Obviously they are afraid that Palin will do miserably so they are taking a pre-emptive swipe at Ifill in the hope that that will add credibility to the claims of bias they are sure to make in Palin's defense. As recent history has shown, the excuses the Palinoids are willing to make for her many gaffes and lack of basic knowledge seem to know no bounds.

It seems they would only be satisfied if someone like Sean Hannity or Michelle Malkin were the moderator; anyone else, in their paranoid view, should be suspect.

I am a supporter of Obama/Biden. I have volunteered for Obama, and I have contributed money to his campaign. I have persuaded many people to vote for Obama.

Gwen Ifill has a financial conflict of interest here. She should not moderate the debate, even if both campaigns agreed that she would moderate. If Palin "loses" the debate, the GOP will blame Ifill. If Biden "loses" the debate, the Dems will say that Ifill was intimidated by the conflict of interest.

There is a relatively easy solution here. Simply have someone who does not have a financial conflict of interest to moderate. If the moderator turned out to be writing a book called "The Distinguished Career of John McCain" and would stand to profit financially if John McCain won the Presidential election, then I would want that moderator replaced as well.

You see, fairness works both ways. People are saying that Tom Brokaw is in the tank for McCain, but at least he will not profit financially from a McCain victory. I don't really care. Obama is a capable politician, and he can handle even biased interviewers.

Now will someone tell me how any person with common sense would vote for a ticket that includes Sarah Palin? Her ignorance makes Bush 2 look like Albert Einstein.

Again the ugly left-wing bias rears it ugly head. Thank god for FOX news and
Could you imagine Patrick J. Buchanan as the debate moderator? This is the same thing.I-fill of it, should be dropped.

Who cares that she wrote a book on Obama. She is sitting there asking questions, not passing judgement or wielding influence on the candidates. Her politics have nothing to do with her ability to ask questions and listen to answers.

The McCain campaign agreed to Gwen Ifill as moderator. Does the McCain campaign have some sort of secret pro-Obama bias?

Gwen Ifill is a highly regarded, longtime Washington reporter -- anyone who has witnessed her handling of politicians in a forum setting knows the evenhandedness and to-the-point questioning style she employs. As far as her book is concerned, there is as much attention paid to the criticisms of Obama's campaign as to the merits.

If Palin were to ask that question, I think it would only be the final nail in her political coffin. Enough tricks already, just let her speak.

Where is the sense of honor? I would definitely recuse myself in this situation.

Gwen, the poster girl for equal opportunity employment quotas, can barely finish one sentence without a stumble. How did she ever get picked as a moderator in the first place?

Just what the Right needs. A major distraction for what is likely to be one of the most cringeworthy performance in the history of politics.

Look....somethiong shiny!!!

This is a absolute joke. Why-- if I was Palin I would ask her why she feels she can moderate this debate fairly?

McCain is getting hoodwinked the same way that Hillary did. The media, the moderators, the board investigating Palin's life. It is going to be a dark day when Barry Soetoro gets elected. This country is in serious trouble.

And she will simply respond, I have no interest in injecting Politics into the quotient as the republican agenda seems to be trying to do, by infering that my political preference should in any way occlude my objectivity. Why didn't they interject that thinking when fox news held a debate?

Outrageious that an Obama lover is the moderator of the next debate. Obama certainly has a lot of influence with the liberal media. She's in bed with Obama, too. I know intelligent college educated people who refuse to watch the debates becaue they believe that the media will be too Obama and will criticize McCann. I've given up listening to the evening news as I believe the three national anchors are very critical of the Republican candidates while gleefully praising the Obamaians. It's really said what the press and media have turned into in the United States: brainwashing machines like in Russia.

I would've imagined that the McCain Campaign agreed to Ms Ifill as the moderator.
But since the GOP is whining, I guess the big bad socialist, marxist, Democrats, must've forced this on Sen McCain.
Why else would the GOPers be whining?
If the McCain Campaign agreed to Ms Ifill, then I guess the GOPers are whining, just for the sake of whining.
Poor little victims. Someone asks Gov Palin a substantive question... whine.
If someone is not in lock-step with GOP groupspeak... whine, whine, whine.
It gets so old.
The GOP has held the White House 28 of the last 40 years, including the last 8; nominated seven of the nine Supreme Court justices and held Congress for 12 of the last 14 years, including 6 of the last 8.
What we're seeing domestically, and in the World, is the result.
Stop whining already... you've had 30 years to try your policies. They don't work... except for the chosen few.

Michelle Malkin is a paid neclown blogger who wrote her in her own book on terror her own version of World War II regarding Japanese Americans spying for Japan during WWII with no attribution whatsoever.

The effect of electoral outcome on book sales is highly speculative. Far less speculative is the damage Ifill would do to her career and her standing in the world of journalism if she were to treat Palin unfairly. I imagine McCain and his staff understand this and I'm not inclined to believe they're behind an attack on a PBS reporter with a reputation for fairness and a track record that supports it, unless they're really desperate and willing to grasp at any and all straws.

Demonstrating a total lack of leadership, this ticket has nowhere to go but further down the slime bucket.

As if 90%+ of black people weren't bias about this election already. You throw in making money off election and you get Gwen Ifill. Sean Hannity needs to moderate next Presidential debate.

Here we go....a legitimate reason for Republicans to cry "foul!" if (when) Palin verbally roams all around in her usual non-sentence fashion.. Gwen is extremely professional, but how would ultra-conservatives know? they are never tuned in to PBS/NPR. They might get a version of the real world with all it's grittiness.

BTW did y'all catch Couric's interview with the abortion question? Maybe Biden should open with a comment to the effect of how he and the good Gov share the same stance on the issue. HUH??? Where do all the far-right evangelical conservatives go now that their woman let that out?!! I do have a question - how is Palin in her short skirt, make-up, woman out-in-front fit in with the values of some ultra-conservatives? We homeschool in the Midwest; and while we are not a 'fit' with the majority of families that homeschool for religious beliefs, we do interact on some levels and at the same time are judged and found lacking because of the immoral abyss we have flung ourselves into by wearing shorts or pants, make-up, listening to secular music, etc..I guess it is believe the parts you want and overlook the rest.

Like it matters what the moderator of a debate supports...what we care about is the candidates. the moderator asks a question then gives equal time to the candidates. How can you say that beacuse she supports Obama (like most intelligent Americans) means she cant ask 2 people the same questions fairly. It wont make a difference.

I don't see a problem with Gwen Ifill book.
You can be objective and give Obama as a winner if you are receiving information from multiple sources and Obama is a winner all over the place. I think it would be stupid to see poll after poll (objective polls of course) giving Obama as a decisive winner and still think that he might lose by some sort of magic (or those machines without paper trail... very convenient devices if you want to fix results).

Yes, it will be very unfair to Sarah Palin and we must forgive her in the debates if she doesn't know how many states there are. Being from Alaska, Palin will feel very uncomfortable being in a room with two black people.

Let's see, Gwen Ifill who is Black, writes a book about the changing political landscape for Black Americans which includes Colin Powell (who is...) and Barack Obama,who is the first presidential candidate in US history with significant Black heritage (remember he has white family too which the repubs conveniently overlook), and conservatives like Malkin, noted for her calm fair analysis are getting their drawers in a twist because the book title (book isn't out nobody has read it yet) has Obama's name in it. That about it? Sounds like the usual no-substance republican whinging to distact and waste everyone's time.

This is a fake dispute. Ifill's book is not an autobiography of Obama, as some have said (esp. on CNN). It's about the shifts going on in African-American politics -- which is not the same. Would a book about women running for executive office be 'about' Palin? Secondly, Ifill is one of the best-respected journalists in the business. Third, this is part of McCain supporters' attempts to change the subject away from Palin's inexperience.

They both have the right to vote down the host. Since the McCain camp has not done that. And add the fact that the planning for this book has been out in googland for some time.I can only surmise that they like me expect and have never scene Gwen Ifill be anything but proffession. Will expect a continuation of that in the debate .Case closed Unless one thinks so little of their canidate that they do not trust them to be able to handle themselves. So what is it?

I'm rooting for Sarah Palin to hit her stride tomorrow night! And I'm excited about Gwen Ifel's forthcoming book.

I'm not at all worried about Ifel's fairness. She'll make a terrific moderator. Someone who has had to rise above discrimination on two fronts would not practice it on anyone else.

I am leaning towards voting for Obama, but having Ifill as the moderator for such an important debate raises questions not only about her impartiality, but the judgment of PBS on this matter.

Sure, it would be nice to present an image of racial equality by having her as the moderator, but being fair should transcend racial and gender issues. She is not qualified due to her past performances of showboating, and neither is she qualified because of her bias towards Obama.

If PBS is smart, it will take Ifill out of the picture and replace her with Jim Leher. Yes, he is a white male, but he is also the best one to moderate the debate.

Let's get this moderator selection away from being PC and select the best person for the job.

The Amazon blurb goes on to make it clear that this book is not about "Obama" but about race. She discusses black Republicans as well. This "uproar" is just another smokescreen from the right to portray Palin as some kind of victim.
Read Amazon blurb continued below....
"Ifill argues that the Black political structure formed during the Civil Rights movement is giving way to a generation of men and women who are the direct beneficiaries of the struggles of the 1960s. She offers incisive, detailed profiles of such prominent leaders as Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, and U.S. Congressman Artur Davis of Alabama, and also covers up-and-coming figures from across the nation. Drawing on interviews with power brokers like Senator Obama, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Vernon Jordan, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, and many others, as well as her own razor-sharp observations and analysis of such issues as generational conflict and the "black enough" conundrum, Ifill shows why this is a pivotal moment in American history."

"...the Age of Obama" ? Ohmigod. He really is the Messiah.

The only fair way to debate a parrot is to have a veterinarian act as moderator. Sarah would not do well in the debate even if John McCain were moderator. She is incapable of constructing a complete coherent sentence. The republicans are better off if they change the goal of the debate to see who can string the most pieces of diatribes and platitudes together without actually saying anything.

If Palin does "open her debate remarks by congratulating Ifill on her book and asking her to tell everyone the title", she will be the death nell of the Republican ticket. Gwen Ifill is an accomplished, respected journalist fully capable of moderating the debate without bias and suggesting otherwise will be political suicide.

If she had any sense of political balance she would not have even considered the role to begin with.

Rigging, THE american two party tradition...

All commentators have a reputation to keep above board.
I would suggest that Gwen Iffil will be all the more objective in her questioning and demeanor. She is very well respected . She is not the first to have a book in publication that needs to do well. And,,,,win or lose, this election will be good for the I don't think it matters who is the president when it comes to that issue.
We are again, making an issue out of nothing.

Already the right is providing excuses for Palin's debate failure.

Just goes to show you the media in all forms are for Obama and skewing the minds of everyone registered to vote. What happened to being undesicive in the media and being fair? How about giving the facts with out giving their opinion. To allow someone who has made no mistake of letting everyone who they are voting for is unfair to the candidates involved and the American people.

It is amazing that the left cannot be fairminded enough to admit that they would be throwing a remarkably hysterical fit if the situation were reversed and Ifill was a conservative writing a book singing the praises of McCain.

I'm sure Ifill will have no problem being neutral... she only has $350,000 to a million dollars on the line. Makes you wonder how close to the Obama campaign she is. Most likely Biden's had the questions for at least a week by now.

How can this be happening? Why would it EVER be OK to put an open supporter of Obama in charge of moderating the Palen/Biden debate? I am so sick & tired of the liberal left-wingers that seem to be intootal controll of the media (except Fox which REALLY is fair & balanced). IF Ms Eiffel had ANY redeeming journalistic character she would have gracefully stepped aside & said "I've written a book that will sell better IF Obama is elected - therefore I respectfully step aside for a more unbiased commentator".

If Gwen Ifill takes a neutral stance on politics, I would be interested on her personal take (or what her book says) about Clarence Thomas or Condoleezza Rice. Why not a no-brainer, non-risk taking title like the Age of Condoleezza? Isn't it a major milestone for this country to have had a world reknown leader like Condoleeezza Rice? I'm just curious. Maybe they have a chapter or 2 dedicated to their already established accomplishments....maybe.

Did you see grumpy 73 year old McCain take Palin by the hand to the woodshed like a little puppy with Katie Couric??--John was like the mad big brother there to protect poor Sarah from the big bad media girl Couric.... JOHN, YOU ARE SO SILLY, SILLY, SILLY.

And now Sarah says BIDEN is old at 65, so what does she call 73 year old McCain in private??? My dinosaur man from ancient times??? Again, Now Sarah is becoming SILLY, SILLY, SILLY TOO.

It also looks like Mccain's campaign is STILL suspended since there is no $700 Billion Bush Bailout deal for his Corporate CEO's and their golden parachutes, and John's lobbyist buddies who propagated this mess----The deal failed mainly because HE messed it up when he went to Washington.

....AND Now we hear he has advised Palin exactly how to answer all questions at the VP Debate on Thursday, and it appears she has already pre-taped her in-depth answers for the Thursday VP Debate:....

....Check it out!

I told the witch doctor
I was in love with you
And then the witch doctor
He told me what to do
He said that

Ooo eee,ooo ah ah ting tang
Walla walla, bing bang
Ooo eee ooo ah ah ting tang
Walla walla bing bang...
Ooo eee ,ooo ah ah ting tang
Walla walla ,bing bang
Ooo eee ooo ah ah ting tang
Walla walla bing bang


I thought this was a whole bit of nothing until I actually heard Ifill respond to the controversy. She played the race card--would they ever question a white journalist about this?--and actually said she didn't understand why people presumed the book would be positive about Obama. (It's called "Breakthrough" and "the Age of Obama", yeah?)

She seems to think that the problem people have is that she's black and Obama is black; rather than that she's a journalist and Obama is a candidate. The very fact that she can't discern this basic distinction calls her entire judgment into question.

In fact, she hadn't even notified the Debate Comission about the book, which likewise raises questions about her judgment, even giving her the benefit of the doubt that it wasn't an intentional omission.

And, I'm sorry: to say that she mentioned the book in a Sept. 4 article in the Washington Post is simply disingenuous; as if she's encouraging the practice of campaigns investigating journalists, and then faulting them when it doesn't happen.

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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