Presidential Debate Moderators

01
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Jim Lehrer

Jim Lehrer of PBS
Jim Lehrer of PBS has moderated more presidential debates than anyone else in modern history, according to the Commission on Presidential Debates. He is pictured here moderating a 2008 debate between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News

Jim Lehrer of PBS is one of the most frequently chosen presidential debate moderators. He has presided over nearly a dozen presidential debates in the last quarter century, according to the Commission on Presidential Debates, the nonpartisan group that organizes the events every four years.

Lehrer moderated a September 2008 debate between Democrat Barack Obama and John McCain on foreign policy and national security at the University of Mississippi. About 52.4 million watched the debate on TV, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Lehrer also was the moderator of a September 2004 presidential debate between President George W. Bush, a Republican, and Democratic nominee John F. Kerry, a U.S. senator from Massachusetts. That debate was held at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla., and drew some 62.4 million viewers.

Lehrer moderated all three presidential debates in 2000 between then-Vice President Al Gore, a Democrat, and Republican nominee George W. Bush, then the governor of Texas. He moderated both presidential debates in 1996 between President Bill Clinton and his Republican challenger, U.S. Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas.

Lehrer moderated two of the three presidential debates in 1992 between Republican President George H.W. Bush and his Democratic challenger, then-Arkansas Gov. Clinton. And in 1988, Lehrer was moderater a presidential debate at Wake Forest University between then-Vice President George H.W. Bush, a Republican, and then Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, a Democrat.

02
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Bob Schieffer

Bob Schieffer of CBS
Bob Schieffer of CBS has moderated two presidential debates. Mario Tama/Getty Images News

Bob Schieffer of CBS moderated an October 2008 debate between McCain and Obama on the economy and domestic policy. The debate, held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., was watched by about 56.5 million viewers.

Schieffer was also the moderator of an October 2004 presidential debate between Bush and Kerry on domestic policy. The debate, held at Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz., was watched by 51.1 million viewers.

03
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Barbara Walters

Barbara Walters
Journalist Barbara Walters has moderated two presidential debates. Toby Canham/Getty Images Entertainment

Barbara Walters of ABC News is one of the few women who have moderated a presidential debate. She has presided over two: the 1984 presidential debate in Louisville, Ky., between Republican President Ronald Reagan and Democratic challenger Walter Mondale, a former Democratic vice president, and a 1976 presidential debate between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter at William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Va.

Though few women have moderated presidential debates, there have been some to preside over vice presidential debates.

Gwen Ifill of PBS, for example, moderated a October 2008 debate between vice president candidates Joe Biden, a Democratic U.S. senator from Delaware, and Sarah Palin, a Republican governor of Alaska. The debate, held at Washington University in St. Louis, drew about 69.9 million viewers, according to Nielsen.

Ifill was also the moderator of an October 2004 vice presidential debate between Republican Vice President Dick Cheney and Democratic nominee John Edwards, then a U.S. senator from North Carolina. The debate, held at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, was seen by about 43.5 million TV viewers.

04
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Carole Simpson

Carole Simpson
News anchor Carole Simpson is seen here at right with Hillary Clinton. Simpson is the last woman to have moderated a presidential debate. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News

Carole Simpson of ABC was the last woman to have moderated a presidential debate in the United States. She presided over the October 1992 town hall-style meeting between Republican George H.W. Bush and Democrat Bill Clinton at the University of Richmond in Virginia.

05
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Tom Brokaw

Tom Brokaw, 2008, Meet The Press set
Tom Brokaw of NBC has been a presidential debate moderator. Getty Images

Tom Brokaw of NBC moderated an October 2008 presidential debate between Republican John McCain, a U.S. senator from Arizona, and Democrat Barack Obama, a U.S. senator from Illinois, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. The debate was watched by about 63.2 million people.

06
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Charles Gibson

Charles Gibson
ABC News anchor Charles Gibson has been a presidential debate moderator. Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images Entertainment

Charles Gibson of ABC moderated an October 2004 presidential debate between President George W. Bush and Democrat John Kerry on domestic and foreign policy at Washington University in St. Louis. The debate was watched by 46.7 million TV viewers.

07
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Bill Moyers

Bill Moyers
Jornalist Bill Moyers of PBS has been a presidential debate moderator. Getty Images News

Bill Moyers of PBS moderated a 1980 presidential debate between Republican Ronald Reagan, a former California governor, and independent John Anderson, a former congressman from Illinois.

08
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Bernard Shaw

Bernard Shaw
CNN journalist Bernard Shaw has been a presidential debate moderator. Mark Mainz/Getty Images Entertainment

Bernard Shaw of CNN was the moderator of a 1988 presidential debate between then-Vice President George H.W. Bush, a Republican, and then Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, a Democrat. The debate on defense and foreign policy issues was held at the University of California at Los Angeles.

09
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Howard K. Smith

Howard K. Smith
American broadcast journalist Howard K. Smith, pictured here in 1945, moderated two presidential debates. Hulton Archive

Broadcast journalist Howard K. Smith of ABC and CBS moderated a 1980 presidential debate between Reagan and Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter in Cleveland, Ohio. He also moderated a 1960 presidential debate on domestic issues between Democrat John F. Kennedy, a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, and Republican Richard M. Nixon, then the vice president.

10
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Edwin Newman

Edwin Newman
NBC broadcast journalist Edwin Newman moderated two presidential debates. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

NBC newsman Edwin Newman moderated a 1984 presidential debate between Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale in Kansas City, Kansas. He also moderated a 1976 presidential debate between Republican incumbent Gerald Ford and Democratic challenger Jimmy Carter, a former governor of Georgia.

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Other Presidential Debate Moderators

Kennedy Nixon Debate
Presidential candidates Richard Nixon (left), later the 37th president of the United States, and John F. Kennedy, the 35th president, face off during a televised debate in 1960. MPI/Archive Photo

Other presidential debate moderators include:

  • Pauline Frederick of NPR, who moderated a 1976 presidential debate between Gerald Ford and Carter in San Francisco.
  • Frank McGee of NBC, who moderated a 1960 presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.
  • Bill Shadel of ABC, who moderated a 1960 presidential debate between Kennedy and Nixon.
  • Quincy Howe of ABC News, who moderated a 1960 presidential debate on foreign affairs between Kennedy and Nixon.