Jim Lehrer, host of PBS’s “News Hour,” will again be a moderator for the presidential debates, but unlike in past election years, he will divide the work with ABC’s Charlie Gibson and CBS’s Bob Schieffer.
The Commission on Presidential Debates announced its selection of the three Friday, along with the choice of Gwen Ifill, a “News Hour” correspondent and moderator of PBS’s “Washington Week,” as moderator for the debate between Vice President Dick Cheney and Democratic Sen. John Edwards.
The announcement from the commission was somewhat preliminary, as representatives for Bush and Kerry are still negotiating the number of debates and format.
Lehrer had conducted all three presidential debates between Al Gore and George W. Bush in 2000 and the same series in 1996 between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole. During the first two debates in 2000, Lehrer was responsible for all the questions, which were criticized for feeding into the candidates’ preprogrammed responses and being too philosophical and open-ended.
The third debate was a town-hall forum and Lehrer chose questions submitted by undecided voters.
This year, Lehrer will moderate the first debate between President Bush and Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, scheduled for Sept. 30.
Gibson, co-anchor of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” will host the second debate, tentatively set for Oct. 8. Schieffer, CBS’s chief Washington correspondent and moderator of “Face the Nation,” will lead the third debate, slated for Oct. 13.
Janet Brown, spokeswoman for the Commission on Presidential Debates, said the decision to have more than one person leading the forums “allows for a more diverse group of journalists to moderate the debates.”
In a statement, Lehrer said: “I am honored to moderate the debate, a most important event in the selection of the next president of the United States. This is a serious responsibility that I will carry out to the best of my abilities.”