Moderators announced for 2020 presidential debates

The Trump campaign complained Joe Biden will have a "teammate" on stage.

September 02, 2020, 2:53 PM

The non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates on Wednesday announced the moderators for the three presidential debates between President Donald Trump and Democratic Nominee Joe Biden, and the single vice presidential debate.

Chris Wallace, anchor of "Fox News Sunday," will host the first debate on Tuesday, Sept. 29 at Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.

The second debate will be moderated by Steve Scully, the senior executive producer and political editor at C-SPAN. It will be held Thursday, Oct. 15 in Miami, Florida. Scully was a back-up moderator for all of the presidential debates in 2016.

Four years ago I had the honor of serving as the back-up moderator for the ⁦@debates⁩ 3 presidential and 1 VP. This year it is a privilege to moderate the 2nd debate at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami. ⁦@realDonaldTrump⁩ ⁦@JoeBiden⁩ OCT 15 ⁦

— Steve Scully (@SteveScully) September 2, 2020

The third debate, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, will be moderated by Kristen Welker, a White House correspondent and anchor at NBC News, on Thursday, Oct. 22.

PHOTO: Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a Democratic debate at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas, Sept. 12, 2019.
Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a Democratic debate at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas, Sept. 12, 2019.
Heidi Gutman/Walt Disney Television, FILE

Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement that the former vice president is looking forward to participating in the debates.

"As Joe Biden has said for months -- without farcical antics -- he looks forward to participating in the debates set by the commission, regardless of who the independently chosen moderators are."

In a statement, the Trump campaign complained the choice of moderators meant Biden would have a "teammate" on stage "most of the time," without being more specific about names.

"These are not the moderators we would have recommended if the campaign had been allowed to have any input. Some can be identified as clear opponents of President Trump, meaning Joe Biden will actually have a teammate on stage most of the time to help him excuse the radical, leftist agenda he is carrying. One thing is sure: Chris Wallace’s selection ensures that Biden will finally see him face-to-face after dodging his interview requests. That is, if Biden actually shows up," Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh said.

The Trump campaign several weeks ago released a list of over 20 names it said it would like to see chosen as debate moderators, but none was selected.

Trump said in mid-August on "Fox and Friends" that he didn't feel the need to do much debate prep.

"Honestly what I'm doing is I'm doing my job. My job is telling me, I mean that's the best debate prep. I've sort of been preparing all my life that's what I do but I guess I'll do some preparation but I didn't do much last time because I understand what's happening. I mean, law and order we need law and order. You don't have to prep for that," he said, although ABC News has confirmed that the president has started debate prep.

He has also said that he wishes he and Biden could just take the stage and "debate it out."

"What I'd like, that would be the ultimate debate, two guys standing on a stage and you just debate it out. I know he'd like not to do the debates. I think he probably has to. I don't know how you get out of the debates. I think you probably have to," he said in an interview with Fox News host Laura Ingraham.

In 2016, Trump infamously demanded that he and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton complete drug tests before the debates, and has said the same this year in an interview with the Washington Examiner.

PHOTO: Then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during the Presidential Debate at Hofstra University on Sept. 26, 2016, in Hempstead, N.Y.
Then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during the Presidential Debate at Hofstra University on Sept. 26, 2016, in Hempstead, N.Y.
Win Mcnamee/Getty Images, FILE

The vice presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic nominee Kamala Harris will be held on Wednesday, October 7 in Salt Lake City, Utah, and moderated by Susan Page, Washington bureau chief of USA Today.

"We are grateful to these experienced journalists, who will help ensure that the general election presidential debates continue to serve their unique educational purpose of helping the public learn about the candidates," Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr., Dorothy S. Ridings and Kenneth Wollack, co-chairs of the non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates, said in a statement. "Each individual brings great professionalism to moderating and understands that the purpose of the 2020 debate formats is to facilitate in-depth discussion of major topics."

For all the moderators, except for Wallace, this will be their first time handling presidential or vice presidential debates. Wallace moderated 2016's final presidential debate-- and held a tough interview with the president earlier this summer on race and policing, coronavirus and other issues the country is facing.


Each debate will run from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. with no breaks for commercials.

The first and third debates, hosted by Wallace and Welker respectively, will be moderator-led. The program will be divided into six segments of 15 minutes each, according to the commission, on topics decided by the moderator. Topics will be announced at least one week before each debate.

The second debate will be town-hall style, with voters from the Miami area asking questions to the candidates. Every voter who poses a question to the candidates will be undecided, according to a release by the commission.

The vice presidential debate will follow a format similar to the first and third presidential debates. The debate will be divided into nine segments of 10 minutes, with a moderator-led discussion and potential for follow up questions, the commission said.

ABC News' Will Steakin and John Verhovek contributed to this report.

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