Gwen Ifill was chosen to moderate the vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin and yesterday headlines hit the major media showing that Ifill was writing a book, to be released on Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009, called "The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama."
In an interview with Associated Press, Ifill waves away concerns questioning her ability to be impartial as a moderator and wonders why people assume the portion of her book about Obama would be favorable to him.
Doubleday's online description of the book says Ifill "surveys the American political landscape, shedding new light on the impact of Barack Obama’s stunning presidential campaign and introducing the emerging young African American politicians forging a bold new path to political power.”
In the eighth paragraph of the Associated Press article it states Ifill "she did not tell the Commission on Presidential Debates about the book."
The Commission on Presidential Debates is responsible for choosing moderators and organizing debate terms between the candidates and/or their campaigns and as of now, they had no comment for the Associated Press and other media organizations that have tried to contact them regarding this issue.
Opinions vary, even within opposite political parties as to whether there is a conflict of interest with Ifill having a financial stake in the outcome of the elections. Some from both sides of the political aisle think Ifill can and should be able to moderate effectively and others believe there is a conflict of interest and Ifill should not have been chosen or should be replaced.
MSNBC has set up an online poll, which asks "Do you think PBS' Gwen Ifill was a smart choice to moderate the vice presidential debate?"
At this moment there are 118,633 responses and 31 percent answers "Yes, her stellar political record speaks for itself," and 69 percent say "No, there is a clear conflict between her moderating duties and the book she's authoring."
For many, the issue is not Gwen Ifill's ability to remain an impartial moderator given her political affiliation, but whether her having a monetary stake in the elections is considered a conflict of interest.
[Update] Looks like Columbia Journalism Review believes there is a conflict of Interest.
Gwen Ifill has done solid, important journalism. She’ll likely be a good, tough, and neutral moderator to the vice-presidential debate. Let’s set that aside, for now.
Conflict of interest is often about appearances. There appears, to us, to be a conflict in Ifill moderating tomorrow night’s vice presidential debate. Here’s why:
- Ifill’s upcoming book is called “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama.” It, apparently, “surveys the American political landscape, shedding new light on the impact of Barack Obama’s stunning presidential campaign and introducing the emerging young African American politicians [like Newark Mayor Corey Booker and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick] forging a bold new path to political power.”
- The book apparently will be published on January 20th, 2009, Inauguration Day.
- It stands to reason that a book with such a title would sell better if a certain person is inaugurated on that day.
We’d like to hear from Ifill. We’re going to try to reach her now.