Schieffer's statements raise questions about objectivity

››› ››› NICOLE CASTA

Bob Schieffer, CBS chief Washington correspondent and host of Face the Nation, is scheduled to moderate the third and final presidential debate on October 13. As moderator, Schieffer will be responsible for formulating the debate questions and following up after the candidates respond. However, Schieffer has described in the past his "golfing friendship" with President George W. Bush "during the 1990s" and has said, "It's always difficult to cover someone you know personally." These and other past statements by Schieffer raise the very question that Schieffer himself suggested: Can he perform the role of objective moderator given the "difficult[y]" of "cover[ing] someone you know personally"?

  • Schieffer may find it "difficult" due to Bush friendship. According to an August 20 Mother Jones article, Schieffer "struck up a golfing friendship with George W. Bush during the 1990s." In 2003, Schieffer told Washington Post staff writer and CNN host Howard Kurtz: "It's always difficult to cover someone you know personally."
  • Schieffer on Kerry: "[B]efore the first debate, I think John Kerry was about to go off a cliff." On the October 11 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, Schieffer stated: "I'm not an expert on polling, but I think this is a race that could go either way. I think, frankly, before the first debate, I think John Kerry was about to go off a cliff. I think he got himself back in the game."
  • Schieffer opined in favor of Bush after he debated Gore in 2000. As Media Matters for America previously documented, Schieffer joined the chorus of pundits that lowered the bar for Bush and raised it for former Vice President Al Gore in 2000. During CBS News presidential debate coverage on October 3, 2000, Schieffer stated: "Well, I think, clearly tonight, if anyone gained from this debate, it was George Bush because he showed that people will argue back and forth over the positions they took, but, clearly, he seemed to have as much of a grasp of the issues as -- as Al Gore did tonight. So in that sense, I think Bush gained a lot."
  • Schieffer used Republican talking points in place of facts. As MMFA noted the following day, on the July 18 edition of CBS's Face the Nation, Schieffer echoed Republican Party talking points in questioning Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe, falsely asserting that Senator John Kerry "really has laid out no agenda" on Iraq.
  • Schieffer cited only one poll and extrapolated Kerry criticism. As MMFA also documented, given five recently released national polls that painted two very different pictures of the presidential race -- three showed an extremely close race, while two showed a sizeable Bush lead -- Schieffer cited only a poll favorable to Bush (the CBS News/New York Times poll) and concluded on the September 19 edition of Face the Nation: "George [W.] Bush has now opened a nine-point lead over John Kerry. You don't have to be an expert to figure that out. Voters may be less than enamored with President Bush but they are even more uneasy about John Kerry, whose plans for the country remain a mystery to them, according to this poll."
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