Radditz Should Recuse

A recent survey of this country showed that the biggest problem we face as a nation is our political polarization. Not rascism, nor division by religion, ethnicity or creed. We are angriest towards others on the political side of the aisle. How stupid,then, to defend the choice of Martha Raddatz as the sole moderator of the sole vice-presidential debate, now that facts have surfaced that raise legitimate questions on the appearance of bias.
The Daily Caller has exposed that Martha Raddatz, the sole moderator of the sole vice-presidential debate, hosted President Obama as her wedding guest back in 1991. Apparently, President Obama was a good friend and law school classmate of Ms. Raddatz’s groom, Julius Genochowski. Nonetheless, ABC News and the Commission on President Debates insist there is no bias, especially because Ms. Raddatz divorced Mr. Genochowski back in 1997 and each has since married other people.

Wait a second. Hold on just a minute. Ms. Raddatz may be an extremely effective journalist, known for posing tough questions to everyone in power. But it doesn’t change the fact that there is an appearance of favoritism here, and that appearances count. In this overheated campaign season, do we really need aspersions cast on the motivation of the questioner? Ms. Raddatz is the sole moderator- she gets to decide which questions to pose, in which order, and how to volley back a response. Get tough on abortion, she favors Obama/Biden, because the majority of women in this country are pro-choice. Skip it altogether, as did Jim Lehrer, and focus on budget, she could be said to favor Romney/Ryan, notably knowledgable on this issue.

Moreover, Raddatz may have divorced her first husband, but they could still be good friends. My law partner’s ex was her closest confidante for the next 30 years, until he passed away, despite the fact that each went on to marry other people. It’s not unreasonable to suppose that Ms. Raddatz would harbor personal affection for a guest at her wedding who went on to become the President of the United States. I know I would.

The fact is most often we cannot see our own biases; others need to point them out. Washington insiders are so blase, so totally used to the revolving door of public office, lobbyists, and journalists that they are uniformly refusing to see what we outside the Beltway can see so clearly. The reason this story is getting such wide circulation is that the ordinary person sees it for what it is- media bias having the potential of affecting the outcome of an election.

As a lawyer, I was ingrained with the professional training that judges should always recuse themselves from cases whenever there is even an “appearance of impropriety”. Justified or not, it is always more important that the public be satisfied in the impartiality of a ruling, rather than satisfy a particular judge’s ego to preside at a case. For the sake of the integrity of the debate process, Martha Raddatz should step aside.

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2 thoughts on “Radditz Should Recuse

  1. Lisa, I’m a big supporter of yours and this is the only comment from you that I find unfair. Ms. Raddatz is a professional journalist and I believe did well in the debate. The abortion question needed to be asked for the benefit of both parties. She could have pressed Ryan to give her the actual facts she asked for but let it go. I didn’t find Biden’s crazy smiling professional or attractive but that’s something no one could stop. Kate Allen

  2. Hi Kate, I wrote this before her actual performance, and I had no doubt personally that she would endeavor to do a fine job. But this situation gives rise to accusations of bias- that’s my main point- and where there is even a scintilla of doubt, the moderator/judge should step aside, for the good of the process. This wasn’t personal- it was bigger than that. Thanks for your comment, Lisa

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