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Debate moderator Martha Raddatz has covered White House, wars

By Jim Kavanagh, CNN
updated 7:32 AM EDT, Fri October 12, 2012
Moderator Martha Raddatz looks on at Centre College.
Moderator Martha Raddatz looks on at Centre College.
  • Martha Raddatz is ABC's senior foreign affairs correspondent
  • She's visited Iraq 21 times and flown in an F-15 over Afghanistan
  • Conservatives question her neutrality; Obama is a friend of her ex

(CNN) -- The moderator for Thursday night's vice presidential debate is Martha Raddatz, senior foreign affairs correspondent for ABC News since 2008.

According to her biography, Raddatz was ABC's White House correspondent during the George W. Bush administration, after serving as senior national security correspondent and State Department correspondent. She has traveled widely, including 21 trips to Iraq and multiple visits to Pakistan and Afghanistan. She has flown in an F-15 fighter jet over Afghanistan twice.

Before joining ABC, Raddatz was NPR's Pentagon correspondent for five years, during which time she made numerous trips to Europe covering the war in the former Yugoslavia.

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In a separate profile on the site, Raddatz said moderating a debate may be scarier than going into a combat zone, "because you don't wear body armor" at a debate.

Raddatz has won four Emmy awards, the 2012 First Amendment Award from the Radio Television Digital News Foundation, the 2007 International Urbino Press Award, the 2005 Daniel Pearl Award from the Chicago Journalists Association, and an Overseas Press Club Award for coverage of the 1995 assassination of Israeli statesman Yitzhak Rabin. The White House Correspondents' Association gave Raddatz an award in 2007 for excellence in presidential news coverage under deadline pressure.

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Raddatz's 2007 book, "The Long Road Home -- a Story of War and Family," was a New York Times and Washington Post best-seller.

You can follow Raddatz, 59, (@martharaddatz) on Twitter. She was raised by her mother in Salt Lake City after her father died when Raddatz was 2 years old, she told an interviewer from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, site of Thursday's debate. According to the website NNDB, she never completed college.

The conservative blog Daily Caller raised a flag on Raddatz on Wednesday, saying President Obama, while still a student at Harvard Law, attended her wedding to Obama classmate Julius Genachowski, whom Obama later appointed to lead the Federal Communications Commission, according to Politico. The Drudge Report and other conservative outlets subsequently raised doubts about Raddatz's objectivity.

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"This is absurd," an ABC News spokesperson told Politico. "Martha Raddatz is known for her tough, fair reporting, which is why it was no surprise to her colleagues inside and outside ABC News that she was chosen by the Commission on Presidential Debates for this assignment. "Barack Obama was a law school classmate of Raddatz's ex-husband Julius Genachowski at Harvard. At the time Barack Obama was a student and president of the Law Review. He attended their wedding over two decades ago along with nearly the entire Law Review, many of whom went on to successful careers including some in the Bush administration. Raddatz and Mr. Genachowski divorced in 1997 and both are now remarried."

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According to Contemporary Authors Online, Raddatz was born in Idaho and has also been married to Boston journalist Ben Bradlee Jr., the son of the famous Washington Post managing editor. She had one child each with Bradlee and Genachowski. She currently is married to award-winning NPR correspondent Tom Gjelten.

Raddatz broke up a White House press briefing in January 2007 when her cell phone suddenly started ringing loudly to the tune of "Ridin'" by Chamillionaire. White House spokesman Tony Snow's reaction -- "Does Martha have a hip-hop ringtone?" -- prompted raucous laughter from her fellow journalists while she scrambled to silence the phone. "Play that funky music, white girl," Snow cracked.

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