NEW YORK—NBC News chief anchor Lester Holt will moderate the first of three scheduled debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on Sept. 26, with ABC’s Martha Raddatz, CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Fox News Channel’s Chris Wallace lined up for the others.
The Commission on Presidential Debates also said Friday that CBS News’ Elaine Quijano will moderate the vice presidential debate between Republican Mike Pence and Democrat Tim Kaine on Oct 4.
The third presidential debate, to be moderated by Wallace on Oct. 19, and first will be traditional question-and-answer sessions with the journalist choosing the topics. Raddatz and Cooper will team up for the second session on Oct. 9, a town hall-style meeting with half of the questions to be posed by audience members.
Each of the debates is scheduled for 90 minutes, with a 9 p.m. EDT start time.
Clinton has said she will participate in all three debates. Trump has not formally agreed, although he has reportedly been preparing to debate. There was no immediate reaction from the candidates to the chosen moderators. The campaigns have no say in who is selected.
Moderating is one of a journalist’s most visible, and risky, roles. Millions of people will be watching and ready to critique performances. Trump’s anger with Fox News’ Megyn Kelly was one of the primary campaign’s biggest stories, and it began because he didn’t like a debate question she asked about his attitude toward women.
The commission is bringing in new faces; none of those selected has moderated a general election debatebefore, although Raddatz did the 2012 vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan. Before Wallace’s selection, no Fox News personality had been a general election moderator.
It will be the first time since 1984 that the general election campaign’s much-anticipated first debate won’t be moderated by the now-retired Jim Lehrer of PBS. Two other 2012 moderators, Candy Crowley of CNN and Bob Schieffer of CBS, are also no longer active in TV news.
The leadoff position is a coup for Holt, who took over as NBC “Nightly News” anchor last year for Brian Williams and kept the broadcast on top of the ratings. The commission avoided potential political problems by not selecting Kelly or ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, who was a White House aide of Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton.
Fallout, however, included a letter of protest sent to the commission Friday by the president and CEO of Univision, the nation’s most popular Spanish-language network. Randy Falco said he wanted to express his “disappointment, and frankly disbelief” that no Latino journalist was selected as a moderator.
“It’s an abdication of your responsibility to represent and reflect one of the largest and most influential communities in the U.S.,” Falco wrote.
Univision’s Jorge Ramos, who celebrates 30 years as anchor of the network’s evening newscast this fall, said this week that it was “high time” a Latino journalist was considered. He said he was interested, and suggested others like Jose Diaz-Balart of Telemundo and Maria Hinojosa of NPR.
Quijano is of Filipino descent. At 42, she’s the freshest face of Friday’s selections. She’s an anchor and leads political coverage at CBSN, CBS‘ 24-hour streaming service, and anchors CBS’ Sunday evening newscast.
Although he hasn’t done a general election debate, Wallace has moderated GOP primary debates with colleagues Kelly and Bret Baier. During the primaries, Cooper moderated two debates and seven town halls on CNN.
Fox’s Wallace said he was excited by the opportunity.
“They knew I was interested,” he said. “You kind of put the word out there to the debate commission, but you can’t lobby for it. You can’t do anything. They end up deciding it.”
The commission, chaired by former Republican National Committee head Frank Fahrenkopf and former Bill Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry, says little about its selection process.