Debate official's advice to moderators: It's not about you

Commission Co-Chair on Plan for Debates_00061423
Commission Co-Chair on Plan for Debates_00061423

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Commission co-chair discusses plan for debates 07:38

Story highlights

  • Mike McCurry is the co-chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates
  • McCurry: "I think the job description is to get out of the way of the candidates"

Washington (CNN)The moderators of the upcoming presidential debates should take a backseat approach when it comes to intervening between the candidates, the co-chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates said Saturday.

Mike McCurry, a former press secretary for President Bill Clinton, told CNN's Michael Smerconish that there's no place for moderators with "strong opinions."
"I think the job description is to get out of the way of the candidates. The candidates are the ones that have to fact-check each other," he said.
    When considering how moderators should approach their task, McCurry emphasized that they should learn from long-time CBS correspondent Bob Schieffer's approach.
    "He said the first thing you should do as a moderator before the debate is go look in the mirror and say, 'It's not about me,'" McCurry said.
    However, when it comes challenging outright factually incorrect statements, "there are right ways to do that," he said.
    "I don't doubt that Donald Trump is trying to work the ref a little bit right now in some of the things he's been saying" McCurry said, apparently referring to NBC's widely criticized "Commander-in-Chief Forum," in which moderator Matt Lauer failed to fact-check Trump's statement that he "was totally against the Iraq War" despite having initially said that he supported it.
    The latest crop of moderators, beginning with NBC's Lester Holt on September 26 and followed by CNN's Anderson Cooper, ABC's Martha Raddatz and Fox News' Chris Wallace, will "have to use their editorial and journalistic judgment and ask the questions that most Americans would expect the candidates to be asked" McCurry said.
    "We want to see a good discussion about the future of our country in a dignified setting," he added.