Second Presidential Debate: Grade Martha Raddatz and Anderson Cooper's Job as Moderators

Anderson Cooper Martha Raddatz Presidential Debate Moderators Trump Clinton

Round 2 of the presidential debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton offered plenty of fireworks — and moderators Martha Raddatz and Anderson Cooper got caught in the crossfire.

As the Republican and Democratic nominees traded vicious barbs, Raddatz and Cooper tried to maintain order, telling the rowdy audience several times to settle down and interrupting each candidate to move on. But Trump clearly felt like he was being ganged up on; he even muttered under his breath that this debate felt like it was “one-on-three.”

At first glance, the combination of Raddatz (a woman) and Cooper (an openly gay man) might seem like it was specifically designed to antagonize Trump, who’s had trouble winning support from both of those demographics. But Raddatz has been with ABC News for nearly 20 years and moderated the 2012 VP debate, and CNN anchor Cooper has been covering world affairs on TV since the early 1990s. So both clearly earned their spots on the debate stage tonight.

The debate’s town-hall format put half of the questions in the hands of undecided voters sitting in the audience, so Raddatz and Cooper had at least some of the pressure taken off their shoulders. But when the moderator questions began, Cooper went right after the infamous “Trump Tapes,” directly challenging Trump: “You bragged that you’ve sexually assaulted women. Do you understand that?”

Trump did not understand that, again dismissing his words on the infamous tape as “locker-room talk” and pivoting to talk about how he’s going to “knock the hell out of ISIS.” Cooper continued needling him, though, trying to pin him down: “Have you ever done those things?” Trump insisted, “No, I have not.”

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Raddatz got under Trump’s skin early on when she cut off one of his answers. He bristled at the interruption: “I’m not allowed to respond? Sounds fair.” Later, in a discussion about Islamophobia, Raddatz pressed Trump about a specific point, and he lashed out: “Why don’t you interrupt her? You interrupt me all the time.”

Cooper didn’t get away unscathed, either. After he wrapped up an exchange about Clinton’s missing emails, Trump hit back at him: “I’d like to know: Why aren’t you bringing up the emails? We haven’t finished it.” When Cooper insisted on moving on, Trump made his “one-on-three” remark. He also complained several times about the moderators allowing Clinton to go over her allotted time.

But Cooper and Raddatz did follow up with both candidates to clarify their positions throughout, and they pressed Clinton on her paid speeches and her characterization of Trump’s supporters as “deplorables.” Honestly, they probably could’ve done more to keep Trump in line, since he repeatedly interrupted Clinton’s answers and got away with it. But they did what they could to keep things as civil as possible… which wasn’t very civil at all.

Do you agree that Trump was fighting “one-on-three” at the debate? Grade each moderator’s performance in the polls below, then hit the comments to share your thoughts.

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