Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani submits debate moderator list suggesting 11 Fox hosts and pundits

Trump's campaign wants friendly hosts and Trump boosters to moderate his debates with Democratic rival Joe Biden

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published August 6, 2020 11:51AM (EDT)

Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump (Getty Images/Salon)
Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump (Getty Images/Salon)

President Donald Trump's campaign submitted a list of requests Wednesday to the Commission on Presidential Debates, including a list of suggested moderators which names 11 Fox hosts.

The campaign submitted a letter by Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, which was published by Axios. The letter requests a fourth debate and asks for the first debate to be moved up before early voting begins in certain states. It also includes a list of 24 suggested moderators, nearly half of which are hosts at the Trump-friendly Fox News and Fox Business networks.

The letter suggested Fox News hosts Bret Baier, Shannon Bream, Rachel Campos-Duffy, Harris Faulkner and Bill Hemmer, as well as contributor Michael Goodwin.

Though the campaign excluded Trump loyalists such as Sean Hannity and the hosts of "Fox & Friends," Campos-Duffy's inclusion drew skepticism. The wife of former Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., a CNN pundit who is an official Trump surrogate, Campos-Duffy has long been a "sycophantic pro-Trump commentator across Fox's opinion shows," The Daily Beast reported.

The list also included Fox Business hosts Maria Bartiromo, Gerry Baker, Dagen McDowell and Charles Payne, plus reporter Susan Li.

Bartiromo, a longtime friend of the president, has become one of the biggest Trump boosters at the network.

The list notably excluded Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace, who had a contentious and widely-praised interview with Trump last month.

Along with much of the Fox line-up, the letter also suggested Christian Broadcasting host David Brody, conservative radio host Larry Elder and CNN Trump booster Hugh Hewitt. A few mainstream journalists also made the cut: CBS News' Major Garrett and Norah O'Donnell, ABC News' David Muir and NBC News' Hoda Kotb.

"I really wouldn't want to be on this list as a journalist," former White House press secretary Joe Lockhart tweeted.

The letter also asked for a fourth debate in early September or for the final debate, scheduled for Oct. 22, to be moved up to the first week of September, because "as many as eight million Americans in 16 states will have already started voting" by the time of the first debate scheduled for Sept. 29.

"Simply put, the commission's current approach is an outdated dinosaur and not reflective of voting realities in 2020," Giuliani wrote. "For a nation already deprived of a traditional campaign schedule because of the COVID-19 global pandemic, it makes no sense to also deprive so many Americans of the opportunity to see and hear the two competing visions of our country's future before millions of votes have been cast."

The Trump campaign has tried to push a narrative that presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden will "try to weasel out of debates," even though the former vice president has long agreed to the debate schedule as is without any changes.

"We have said all along, including in a letter to the commission in June, that Joe Biden will appear on the dates that the commission selected and in the locations they chose," Biden spokesman Andrew Bates told Axios. "Donald Trump has not, continually trying to insert his choice of friendly moderators, now including one who just published an op-ed offering 'the case' for Trump's re-election. Joe Biden will be there."

Even though polls show audiences felt Trump lost every debate to Hillary Clinton in 2016, his campaign's dubious narrative about Biden not wanting to debate him comes months after it threatened not to participate in any debates, because they were "not fair."

"Six months after announcing he did not want to debate, Donald Trump — now trailing in the polls — wants to change the subject from his failed leadership, and launch a 'campaign' for many debates," Biden's deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield told The Washington Post. "But there's a catch: he'll only do it if he can pick the moderators."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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