The moderators for the 2016 presidential debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were announced earlier this month. But if it were up to Trump, no one would moderate them.
“We should have no moderator,” Trump said in a Monday interview on CNBC. “Let Hillary and I sit there and just debate, because I think the system is being rigged so it’s going to be a very unfair debate.”
The Republican nominee’s suggestion comes less than a week after Matt Lauer faced harsh criticism over his performance at NBC’s Commander in Chief Forum, where the “Today” show host failed to fact-check Trump’s false claim he was “totally against the war in Iraq” from the start.
“Everybody said that I won the debate,” Trump said Monday. “They all said I won and that Matt Lauer was easy on me. Well he wasn’t. He was — I thought he was very professional, I have to be honest. I think he’s been treated very unfairly.”
The former “Celebrity Apprentice” star believes that, as a result, the moderators of the upcoming debates will be unfairly harsh on him.
“What they’re doing is they’re gaming the system so that when I go into the debate, I’m going to … be treated very, very unfairly by the moderators,” Trump said. “I can see it happening right now because everyone’s saying that he was soft on Trump. Well now the new person’s going to try to be really hard on Trump just to show, you know, the establishment what he can do. So I think it’s very unfair what they’re doing. So I think we should have a debate with no moderators — just Hillary and I sitting there talking.”
The suggestion is not unprecedented. According to the Commission on Presidential Debates, the historic debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas in 1858 did not have moderators. At each of the seven three-hour debates, the first candidate spoke for one hour, the second for an hour and a half, and the first was then given a half hour to reply. (Lincoln and Douglas alternated going first.)
During the GOP primary, Trump refused to attend a May 2016 debate after complaining that moderator Megyn Kelly would be biased against him. Last summer, Kelly moderated a debate in which she confronted him over disparaging comments he had made about women.
But Trump’s idea for a moderator-less debate is a little late. Both nominees agreed to the moderators and formats announced by the commission on Sept. 2.
The bipartisan commission selected NBC’s Lester Holt, Fox News’ Chris Wallace, CNN’s Anderson Cooper and ABC’s Martha Raddatz — each first-time presidential debate moderators.
Holt will moderate the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., on Sept. 26. Cooper and Raddatz will co-moderate the second debate, a town-hall style forum, in St. Louis on Oct. 9. Wallace will moderate the third and final presidential debate in Las Vegas later that month.