The Return of Pre-Debate Ref-Working

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 9 2012 3:00 PM

The Return of Pre-Debate Ref-Working

"Working the refs" is a term I first heard applied to politics by Eric Alterman. In What Liberal Media?, the columnist's Bush-era debunkery of the idea that the press boosts Democrats, Alterman suggested that the entire campaign to shame media figures was meant to slant their coverage. Hassle Dan Rather enough about his bias, and he'll try to correct it by asking different questions.

Case in point:

The Daily Caller — the conservative website that brought you last week's five-year-old Obama video — is currently working on a story about vice presidential debate moderator Martha Raddatz, of ABC News, and the fact that her second husband once worked with Barack Obama on the Harvard Law Review.

Haven't we been here before? Yes, we've been to the exact same place. In 2008, PBS News's Gwen Ifill was assigned to moderate the Biden-Palin debate. She was also getting ready to promote The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, which would be released after the election. Conservatives pitched a fit, arguing that Ifill would benefit from rigging the game for Biden. Ifill didn't flinch, moderated the highest-rated debate of its kind, and if she experienced any momentary twinge of bias, no one could tell. But the ref was worked.

That said, the case against Ifill -- who'd buy her book if Obama lost? -- is stronger than this apparant case against Raddatz. Her husband worked with Obama in the 1980s? That biases her toward an Obama victory how, exactly? But a nice personal attack like this is sure to have some effect on the ref.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics



The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

Does Your Child Have “Sluggish Cognitive Tempo”? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

The First Case of Ebola in America Has Been Diagnosed in Dallas

Why Indians in America Are Mad for India’s New Prime Minister

Damned Spot

Now Stare. Don’t Stop.

The perfect political wife’s loving gaze in campaign ads.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Don’t Panic! The U.S. Already Stops Ebola and Similar Diseases From Spreading. Here’s How.

Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD

The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  News & Politics
Sept. 30 2014 6:59 PM The Democrats’ War at Home Can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 4:45 PM Steven Soderbergh Is Doing Some Next-Level Work on The Knick
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 30 2014 6:44 PM Ebola Was Already Here How the United States contains deadly hemorrhagic fevers.
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.