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Thursday, October 02, 2008

The wrong question on Gwen Ifill

Everybody’s asking the question: what if Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh were moderating tonight's veep debate? Would that be okay?

And if not, why's it okay that PBS' Gwen Ifill is?

That’s exactly the wrong question. The issue here isn’t whether or not Gwen Ifill is liberal, or whether she’s shown a liberal bias in the past. The issue is she has a direct financial stake in the election’s outcome.

The outcome of the election will have little, if any, effect on Hannity’s or Limbaugh’s bottom lines, but it will have an enormous effect on Ifill’s.

Ifill's situation isn’t like an NFL ref who grew up in Green Bay officiating at a Packers game – it’s like an NFL ref betting money that the Packers will make the playoffs, and then officiating a Packers game.

In fact, I’d be happy to guess that both the title and the release date of Ifill’s book were chosen specifically to maximize interest following an Obama victory. Hey, that's just good marketing, as long as the election turns out their way.

But it's the direct financial interest she has in the election's outcome - not any real or perceived bias she might have - that is the issue here. No professional, responsible, self-respecting journalist would or should ever have allowed herself to do this.