ABC News chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz said Monday evening that the fact President Barack Obama attended her wedding to her now ex-husband Julius Genachowski—Obama’s Federal Communications Commission chairman—“had nothing to do with what I did at the debate.”
Raddatz moderated the only vice presidential debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP vice presidential nominee, in the 2012 campaign. Neither she nor the Commission on Presidential Debates disclosed to the public that she was once married to an Obama cabinet official or that the president attended that wedding.
Raddatz’ denial of any wrongdoing came during a question and answer session after a National Press Club event Monday night at which she and two other 2012 campaign debate moderators discussed their views on the debate process. CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer and PBS anchor Jim Lehrer both also attended. CNN anchor Candy Crowley was scheduled to attend, but canceled at the last minute due to a family emergency.
Breitbart News asked Raddatz:
Do you think – there was obviously a little bit of a kerfuffle ahead of the vice presidential debate about the fact that the president attended your wedding to the FCC chairman. Do you think that that was handled right and given a second chance would you have done it a little differently?
I didn’t do anything. I mean, I didn’t have to handle that. It was – and I’m really not going to comment about that. That was something that happened two days before the debate. It had been in The New York Times quite a while before that, I believe. I just got to put this out of my head. That had nothing to do with what I did at the debate. Nothing.
Raddatz was at least partially misleading with her answer. The New York Times did mention in a profile of her as a foreign correspondent—that ran in the “Fashion” section almost a full year before the debate she moderated—that Raddatz was once married to Genachowski. The Times did not disclose in that story that Obama himself attended that wedding between Raddatz and Genachowski. A search of the Times website did not yield other stories where that topic came up.
ABC News spokesman David Ford only admitted that the president attended Raddatz’ wedding while the network and Raddatz were under intense scrutiny ahead of the vice presidential debate.
ABC tried to kill the story—reported first by The Daily Caller’s Josh Peterson—by leaking statements to Politico, the Daily Beast, and the Huffington Post before Peterson even published a story. ABC's statement called reporting on the deep personal ties Raddatz had to the president ahead a debate she was moderating "absurd." The left-leaning Huffington Post called ABC’s tactics “unusual.”
Raddatz’ failure to disclose the conflict of interest appears to be a violation of the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, a written body of rules by which journalists are supposed to abide. In the section of the ethics code that says journalists are to “Act Independently” a clause states that journalists must: “Disclose unavoidable conflicts.”
ABC News and the Commission on Presidential Debates both defended her, as did many mainstream reporters.
Raddatz' performance as a debate moderator was widely panned by conservatives as unfair, including Ryan's own campaign spokesman. When Ryan spokesman Michael Steel—who has since returned to being House Speaker John Boehner's spokesman—was asked, “So you think she made it fair, would you say?”, he responded that: “I’m not sure I would say that.”