Whether or not there was a clear winner of Thursday’s final presidential debate between US President Donald Trump and Joe Biden, NBC News’ Kristen Welker, who was in charge of moderating the sparring session, came out on top after the debate.
Welker is only the second Black woman to moderate a presidential debate on her own. ABC News’ Carole Simpson was the first Black woman to moderate a presidential debate in 1992, according to New York Times.
The fact that Trump said that he was “the least racist person in the room” amid a debate moderated by Welker, a Black woman herself, speaks volumes about the president himself.
According to The Guardian, 44-year-old Welker grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and graduated from Harvard in 1998.
Welker had an undeniably unenviable job given the unruly show that was the first presidential debate. But she did a praiseworthy job, beginning the night with a plea for civility and asking Trump and Biden to “speak one at a time.”
Welker was of course assisted by the mute button, but herself too, managed to conduct a largely civil show and kept it in control, cutting off the two men as required, guiding the discussion and reminding them to not overshoot their time.
Welker is a well-respected journalist, even having earned praise from Trump adviser Jason Miller, who called her “very fair.” She had also co-moderated the fifth Democratic presidential debate in November 2019, Poynter reported. Welker has reportedly been covering the White House since 2011 and began co-anchoring NBC’s “Weekend Today” in January 2020.
She entered the debate having faced attacks from Trump this week, who reportedly called Welker “terrible” and “totally partisan”, while his aides accused her of being biased.
But she came out having earned praise from Trump, who at one point said, “By the way, so far, I respect very much the way you’re handling this, I have to say.”
Chris Wallace, who was the moderator at the first presidential debate that was characterised by chaos as Trump repeatedly talked over him and Biden, said he was “jealous”of Welker’s achievement of being able to maintain order, The Guardian reported.
Speaking to Fox News post the debate, Wallace said, “I would’ve liked to have been able to moderate that debate and get a real exchange of views instead of hundreds of interruptions.”
Wallace had faced criticism for his moderation of the first presidential debate, while Susan Page also faced criticism for her handling of the vice-presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris, The Guardian reported.
Praise Pours in for Welker
Welker’s debut performance on Thursday earned her praise from her fellow journalists as well, with many taking to Twitter to commend her poise and control over the debate. The Guardian reported that there have been more than 125,000 tweets about Welker since the debate.
(With inputs from Poynter, The Guardian and The New York Times.)
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