Suffice it to say Hugh Hewitt is no Candy Crowley.
The conservative radio host is scheduled to moderate the first of three GOP presidential primary debates starting in September. Salem Media Group, a Christian, conservative multi-media corporation, is teaming up with CNN. The RNC is sanctioning the debates.
Hewitt, who is Salem’s nationally syndicated radio host, is a stark departure of past GOP debates. As some may recall, Crowley sided with Obama against GOP opponent Mitt Romney during a debate in 2012 concerning the consulate attack in Benghazi and whether or not Obama referred to it as an “act of terror.” At the time, Romney surrogate John Sununu insisted that Obama had been referring to 9-11. CNN fact checked the incident and declared that Obama indeed described it as an “act of terror.”
At the time, some conservative media outlets complained that debate rules were broken when the audience applauded after Crowley intervened for Obama against Romney. They referred to the moment as “Crowley’s error.”
The facts aside, in 2013 during a lecture to conservatives at the Las Vegas Country Club, Frank Fahrenkopf, co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates, said Crowley, in retrospect, was the wrong choice. He called it a “mistake.”
Hewitt will moderate the debate on Sept. 16 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.
According to a release, he will also broadcast special editions of his program pre- and post-debate. After the debate, candidates will join Hewitt to “talk candidly” about the event and the “pressing issues facing the nation.”
Hewitt is naturally extremely excited.
“I am delighted to be included with journalists posing questions as part of one of America’s finest political traditions -the presidential debate,” said Hewitt. “These debates come at a critical time, and good questions will allow Republican primary voters the opportunity to see and hear their would-be nominees provide answers to issues that genuinely concern them. Any reporter who is also a political junkie welcomes the chance to be on such a panel, which of course I do.”
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus stated, “I’m thrilled that Salem will partner with three of our Republican primary debates that will be aired on CNN. When we set out to improve the debates, I promised conservative media would be part of the process. Salem will help the Republican Party have meaningful debates about new ideas for the future, while Democrats simply coronate Hillary Clinton.”
A key line in the release: “Additional Salem national radio hosts will be announced later as leading participants in future debate coverage.”
UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt’s humble response to the powers that be at CNN: “Thanks to everyone who is sending me congrats on being a participant in GOP debate but to be clear? It isn’t 1st and I’m not the ‘moderator.” To be fair, Salem’s release says the debate Hugh will be involved in with CNN is the first debate. But who am I to fight with dueling, controlling publicists? Per CNN publicist Lauren Pretapas by email: “Hugh Hewitt just clarified on his twitter. He is not the moderating of the debate. Just wanted to make sure you saw.” Asked who the “moderator” will be, she replied, “Still tbd. Not decided yet. But will be CNN anchor.”