Neither ABC nor the Commission on Presidential Debates would confirm Thursday to The Daily Caller whether they were aware of Martha Raddatz’s personal ties to President Barack Obama before she was chosen to moderate Thursday night’s vice presidential debate.
An investigation by The Daily Caller revealed Wednesday that Obama attended Raddatz’s 1991 wedding to Julius Genachowski, Obama’s close personal friend from the Harvard Law Review whom he later tapped to chair the Federal Communications Commission.
The episode is reminiscent of the controversy that erupted when PBS “Washington Week” host Gwen Ifill moderated the 2008 vice presidential debate despite having a book in the works that praised Obama and despite profiling him in glowing terms for Essence magazine.
On Thursday ABC published an equally glowing online profile of Raddatz titled “Getting to Know ABC News VP Debate Moderator Martha Raddatz.” It fails to mention her personal ties to the president.
“I want people to feel. I want people to question,” ABC quotes Raddatz as saying about her journalistic priorities.
Raddatz, now divorced from Genachowski, is married to NPR journalist Tom Gjetlen. NPR’s federal funding is a target of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s economic blueprint, a fact highlighted Wednesday by the New York Observer’s Politicker blog.
Neither ABC nor the debate commission responded to TheDC’s requests for comment Wednesday about whether they believed Raddatz’s current marriage posed a conflict of interest similar to the one embodied in her previous marriage to Genachowski.
Panelists on “Morning Joe,” a morning television show on the liberal MSNBC network, unanimously agreed Thursday that the information flowing from TheDC’s investigation was relevant information the public should know — a stark contrast from the debate commission’s response Wednesday through USA Today.
“Peter Eyre, an adviser to the non-partisan debate commission, said the organization doesn’t care that Obama attended Raddatz’s wedding more than 20 years ago,” reported USA Today Wednesday following the publication of TheDC’s report.
“We selected Martha Raddatz because she is a terrific journalist and will be a terrific moderator and we’re thrilled to have her,” Eyre said. “The notion that that somehow affects her ability is not something we have given a moment’s thought to.”
The year after Obama attended Raddatz; wedding, Genachowski attended the Obamas’ nuptials. Raddatz, according to ABC, did not attend. The network would not deny, however, that Raddatz was invited to the wedding of the future president and first lady. (RELATED: Genachowski attended Obama’s wedding without wife Raddatz, says ABC)
Raddatz and Genachowski — her second husband — had a son together before they divorced in 1997. The two are now remarried to separate spouses.
Genachowski’s friendship with Obama would continue through the 2008 campaign, throughout Obama’s transition period, and in his administration. He currently serves as Obama’s Federal Communications Commission chairman.
Sources who knew the two men during their days at Harvard Law School confirmed that they were close friends. Raddatz and Genachowski were married before graduation.
Both ABC and the commission declined to comment on the matter when TheDC first investigated in August, keeping from the public any information about Obama’s attendance at Raddatz’ wedding until the eve of the vice presidential debate when TheDC forced their hands.
ABC spokesman David Ford did not respond when The Daily Caller asked Wednesday if he thought the public had a right to know about any connections between Obama and Raddatz. He did, however, suggest that since Raddatz’s marriage to Genachowski’s was already public information, there was no news to report.
Ford also did not return The Daily Caller’s request for comment about why he thought media should be held to a looser set of ethical restrictions than judges who recuse themselves from cases in which they have a conflict of interest.