Trump attacks moderator for second debate over deleted tweet

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President Donald Trump decried on Friday the planned moderator for the erstwhile second presidential debate over a Thursday night tweet that the moderator claims he did not send.

A post to C-SPAN anchor Steve Scully’s Twitter account on Thursday asked Anthony Scaramucci, the onetime White House communications director for Trump who’s since become an ardent critic of the president, “should I respond to trump” in a since-deleted message. Trump and his allies quickly pointed to the social media message as evidence that Scully is biased against the president.

“Steve Scully, the second Debate Moderator, is a Never Trumper, just like the son of the great Mike Wallace. Fix!!!” Trump wrote Friday, referencing Fox News's Chris Wallace, who refereed the chaotic first debate late last month.

The apparent request for advice from Scully's account came after the Oct. 15 town hall, which was to be moderated by Scully, was thrown into disarray following the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates’ decision to hold the forum virtually in light of Trump’s Covid-19 diagnosis. The announcement touched off a day of finger-pointing between the Trump campaign and the campaign of Democrat Joe Biden.

The commission announced it was canceling the second debate once it became clear neither of the candidates were planning to show.

Frank Fahrenkopf, the co-founder and Republican co-chair of the independent debate commission, said Friday that Scully’s Twitter account was hacked.

“Steve is a man of great integrity,” Fahrenkopf said in a radio interview with Fox News host Brian Kilmeade. “It didn't happen."

C-SPAN, too, said in a statement that Scully "did not originate the tweet and believes his account has been hacked."

Scaramucci publicly replied Thursday night to the tweet in question prior to its deletion, writing “Ignore. He is having a hard enough time. Some more bad stuff about to go down.”

On Friday Scaramucci said he believed Scully’s explanation that he did not pen the tweet.

“I accept @SteveScully at his word,” Scaramucci wrote minutes prior to Trump’s attack. “Let’s not cancel anymore people from our culture for absolutely something like this. It’s insignificant. He is an objective journalist.”

It's not the first time that Scully has used the excuse to disavow posts in his name, having done so at least twice in the past.

"I apologize for some earlier TWEETS...account was hacked...those tweets did not come from me. Thanks all for alerting me," he wrote in March 2013.

"I apologize for Saturday's tweets regarding weight loss, etc. I still have my day job at C-SPAN...darn those hackers. Have a great Sunday" Scully wrote in May 2012.

Hacking has been used as a frequent explanation for public figures defending actions online. Former California Rep. Katie Hill invoked it earlier this week after her old congressional Twitter account posted messages purportedly sent by “Katie’s former staff” blasting the forthcoming film adaptation of her memoir.

“Control of my account was immediately handed back to the House Clerk when I resigned, including password changes and access restrictions,” Hill wrote. “God knows who hacked it from there. Reported to @twitter.”

A massive attack this summer against Twitter compromised high-profile accounts belonging to figures like former President Barack Obama, former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and musician-cum-presidential candidate Kanye West.

That breach was part of a Bitcoin scheme that’s led to charges for a Florida teenager and two adults. The social media platform in September required certain politicians and journalists to fortify their security passwords to prevent similar attacks.