EXCLUSIVE: Rep. Elissa Slotkin Chews Out Handpicked Debate Moderator For Not Asking Abortion Question

Screenshot via YouTube/WLNS 6 News

Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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Democratic Michigan Rep. Elissa Slotkin was secretly caught dressing down her own hand-picked moderator for not asking questions about abortion in an Oct. 6 debate, to the point that the local reporter was reduced to apologizing to the representative.

Slotkin, who is running against Republican state Sen. Tom Barrett, cornered Tim Skubick of WLNS after their debate to remind him that she “chose” him to host the forum. A recording of the encounter, obtained exclusively by the Daily Caller, provides a window into the Democratic Party’s desire to frame the midterm elections as a referendum on abortion. One of the most vulnerable incumbent Democrats, Slotkin, and her campaign personally selected Skubick to moderate the debate, according to a document obtained by the Daily Caller.

Although Slotkin and Barrett discussed abortion at length during a Sept. 25 debate, Slotkin criticized Skubick for not pressing the Republican on his views, flatly telling him, “you’re better than that.” Slotkin twice voted for the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would legalize abortion up to the moment of birth and eliminate conscience protections for doctors and nurses who oppose the procedure. In contrast, Barrett introduced legislation in the Michigan state Senate in 2019 banning dismemberment abortions. He has promised “to protect life from conception.”

“This media market has never seen us debate. Ever. Not once. Not one minute,” Slotkin tells Skubick in the recording. WLNS serves the Lansing area, while WDIV, which hosted the first debate, serves Detroit and its suburbs. Skubick can be heard multiple times appealing to Slotkin to engage “respectfully.” Even so, Skubick finally tells Slotkin, “I owe you an apology.”

“Oh no, it’s not an apology,” Slotkin laughs. “I’m just giving you shit.”


Skubick appeared to follow the guidelines the Slotkin campaign proposed and the Barrett campaign agreed to, the rules document shows. Skubick and WDIV moderator Devin Scillian were instructed not to share questions in advance with either campaign, and were solely responsible for developing them.

“My object here tonight is to break new ground on new issues that the first debate didn’t touch,” Skubick said. “Aren’t you running ads on the abortion thing against him?”

“Tim, this is a debate. We’re all running ads. We’re all running ads. That’s politics. This is a debate for an hour in a media market that has never seen us debate on an issue that is literally between number one or number two top issues we’re hearing at the doors,” Slotkin answers.

Michigan Democrats are putting abortion front and center in their reelection bids. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel have highlighted their opposition to the state’s 1931 law prohibiting abortion and support for the procedure in their campaigns. During the first debate, Slotkin and Barrett discussed the issue for five minutes. (RELATED: Gretchen Whitmer, Other Dems Distance Themselves From Maurice Imhoff, Candidate Who Allegedly Threatened School Shooting)

“I think the conversation in the fall is, do you believe in the Roe v. Wade standard, or do you believe in the 1931 ban on abortion? And I think you’ve heard very clearly my opponent deflect and he won’t say that he believes in no exceptions,” Slotkin said on Sept. 25.

Like many Democrats running in competitive races, Slotkin has not outlined any restrictions on abortion that she would accept. Slotkin’s campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment from the Daily Caller about her position on the issue, as well as her post-debate interaction with Skubick.

Data on the race is sparse, with the only poll conducted since Michigan’s August primaries showing Slotkin up 18 points. Edward Sarpolus, whose firm Target Insyght conducted the poll, described the result as “quite unbelievable” in an interview with WLNS. Michigan’s 7th District leans four points towards the GOP, according to FiveThirtyEight.

Redistricting pushed Slotkin out of the Eighth District, which she has represented since 2019. Her family’s farm, which Slotkin has claimed as her primary residence since 2018, remains in the Eighth District. Slotkin is currently registered to vote in a Lansing home owned by a lobbyist and donor to her campaign, an arrangement Barrett has repeatedly highlighted.