Former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Newton Minnow says Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump should debate each other without a moderator.
The 90-year-old Chicago attorney, who once characterized television as a “vast wasteland,” told the Chicago Tribune after an appearance at the City Club of Chicago Tuesday, he isn’t sure it was a good idea to exclude third-party candidates Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein.
Trump and Clinton are scheduled to debate next Monday at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, the first of three confrontations in advance of the Nov. 8 general election. NBC newscaster Lester Holt is scheduled to moderate, and Facebook and ABC are planning to live stream. Snapchat will cover the debate on its Live Story platform. It also will be broadcast on the major networks, C-SPAN, Fox News, CNN and MSNBC.
The debate topics will include America’s direction, achieving prosperity and securing America.
“If it were up to me and I were a dictator or could point a gun at the candidates, I would like to have them talk with each other and without a moderator,” said Minnow, who was involved in organizing televised debates beginning in 1960.
Trump Tuesday complained the system is rigged against him. He told Fox News Holt is being pressured to ask him tough questions because NBC’s Matt Lauer was perceived as going easy on him last week.
“What they’re doing is they’re gaming the system, like gaming the ref. Lester’s a professional, but we’ll see what happens. I mean, I think it’s unfair. I think it’s unfair what they’re doing,” Trump said.
Minnow rated PBS’ Jim Lehrer as the best moderator and President John F. Kennedy as the best debater. Lehrer, who moderated 12 presidential debates, told a panel discussion at the University of Notre Dame the moderator should not act as a “truth squad,” but rather let the opposing candidate address misstatements and falsehoods.
Monday’s debate falls on the 56th anniversary of the Kennedy-Nixon debate.
The vice presidential debate between Republican Mike Pence and Democrat Tim Kaine is set for Oct. 4 at Longwood University in Farmville, Louisiana. Trump and Clinton will face off next Oct. 9 at Washington University in St. Louis and then Oct. 19 at the University of Las Vegas.
The debates are organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates. Trump initially indicated he was reluctant to participate, objecting to the dates as interfering with professional football games.