The candidates aren't the only ones ruthlessly scrutinized before, during, and after the presidential debates. ABC News' Martha Raddatz, who's gearing up to co-host the second of the three face-offs between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton with Anderson Cooper of CNN, knows that very, very well. When she moderated the vice presidential debate in 2012, Martha's Raddatz's marriage — or, rather, the revelation that President Barack Obama had attended her wedding more than 20 years prior — emerged as a contentious sticking point for conservatives who believed that this constituted a conflict of interest. Tensions and suspicions between the right and the left haven't cooled four years later, and the situation illustrates the challenge it is for well-known TV personalities like Raddatz to maintain a bias-free façade.
Raddatz, the Chief Global Affairs Correspondent at ABC News, is currently married to NPR's religion and belief correspondent Tom Gjelten — her third husband. Her first husband was Ben Bradlee, Jr., who's best best known for his work uncovering the Catholic Church's sexual abuse scandal in an explosive Boston Globe investigation published in 2002. And between those two, Raddatz married Julius Genachowski in 1991. The two divorced in 1997, but the onetime groom's proximity to Obama still has conservatives questioning Raddatz's impartiality.
Just a day before the 2012 vice presidential debate between Vice President Joe Biden and then-Congressman and Republican veep candidate Paul Ryan, the conservative news site The Daily Caller reported that Obama had attended Raddatz's 1991 nuptials. Genachowski, the outlet reported, attended Harvard Law School with Obama at the time, and both were members of the Harvard Law Review.
Right before The Daily Caller published its piece, ABC News released a preemptive statement to Politico, calling the accusations of a conflict of interest "absurd" and emphasizing Raddatz's reputation as a "fair, tough" reporter.
Still, the right largely agreed that Raddatz had favored Biden during the debate: according to The Hill, their impression was that she had allowed Biden to interrupt Ryan repeatedly and did not give Ryan the opportunity to finish his thoughts.
Whether or not Raddatz — or any moderator — brings her own politics into debates, and the extent to which that does or does not affect the proceedings, is nearly impossible to measure. Raddatz is, of course, an incredibly accomplished journalist, having reported on the Pentagon, the State Department, the White House, and from conflict zones around the world throughout her career. It's certainly possible that the entanglements of Genachowski — who went on to advise Obama on his 2008 presidential run — had no effect on the way she conducted that debate and handled Biden and Ryan back in 2012. But human beings are fallible and none of us is totally free of bias.
Romper reached out to ABC News for comment but did not immediately hear back.
ABC is clearly confident that Raddatz will moderate the debate effectively and fairly, no matter who she used to be married to, and so is the non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates, which tapped her to head up debate number two. The second debate, which will take place at Washington University in St. Louis Oct. 9, will feature a town hall-style format, with questions from both the moderators and audience members. For that night, it really won't matter who Raddatz is or used to be married to — her partner in ensuring the event is productive and illuminating will be Cooper, another fellow journalist who also will shoulder immense public public pressure to make this debate a good one.