The second and final presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden will take place Thursday night. Unlike the previous two debates and town halls, this one may be more controlled as esteemed journalist Kristen Welker, who is both of Black and Native American descent and from Philadelphia, will be moderating.
Welker, a co-anchor on NBC's Weekend Today will be the first Black woman since Carole Simpson in 1992 to moderate a debate alone. This is not her first time moderating a debate. She teamed up with her NBC colleagues Andrea Mitchell, Rachel Maddow and Ashley Parker to ask questions to the field of candidates in the Democratic primary last November.
She has made a name for herself through decades of hard work at NBC and for her tough questions during White House press briefings over the past four years. She spent years covering multiple administrations, including that of former President Barack Obama, and was named a co-host of Weekend Today in January.
Welker has won multiple awards for her work in broadcast journalism, including the Outstanding Journalism in Broadcast Television award this year.
She made headlines with Trump in March when she asked him whether he took responsibility for the lack of widespread coronavirus testing, leading to a now infamous answer from Trump.
"I don't take responsibility at all,” Trump said back to her, in a line that has been used extensively in campaign ads against the president, according to Poynter.
Welker announced last week that the topics she has chosen to discuss during the debate will include COVID-19, American Families, race in America, climate change, national security and leadership.
The debate will be held in Nashville, Tennessee and follows a refusal from Trump to participate in the last debate because Biden had concerns about Trump's recent COVID-19 infection. Instead, news channels NBC and ABC held controversial, dueling town halls last week that were widely criticized for turning informational sessions with each candidate into a fight over ratings.
Previous debates have seen candidates veering off-topic, cutting one another off and not letting moderators finish their questions. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were responsible for the majority of the poor professionalism seen on the debate stage in the last month.
As he has done with every debate moderator, Trump wasted no time in viciously attacking Welker, using his pulpit as president to bash her repeatedly during rallies and interviews over the last week.
On Twitter, he called Welker "terrible & unfair" and has spearheaded a conservative effort to attack the journalist and her family online. Trump and his allies within conservative media circles have spent the last week dissecting her personal life and criticizing political donations made by her parents.
“Kristen Welker is a radical left Democrat. I told you about the last one and I was right and I told you about Savannah Guthrie and I was right. Then ask her why did she delete her account. Kristin Welker should put all of her statements back on. She deleted her entire account. She shouldn’t do that,” Trump told reporters in Phoenix, Arizona.
Trump was referencing the fact that Welker briefly deleted her Twitter account after a coordinated effort by Republican leaders to attack her online. She has since restored her account.
Trump and others have repeatedly harped on their effort to drive Welker off of social media through harassment. He touted his work during a rally on Saturday.
The President goes after Kristen Welker and says he’s known her for a long time and she’s extraordinarily unfair pic.twitter.com/Qnw0eeBCa3
— Acyn Torabi (@Acyn) October 18, 2020
Her colleagues at NBC and other reporters have come out in defense of her work and professionalism.
"She’s not radical, she’s not a Democrat, she didn’t delete her entire account, she doesn’t scream her questions, and she’s a good journalist and a good person," CNN's Jake Tapper wrote on Twitter this week.
Despite the criticism, Trump has previously praised Welker for her work and members of his own campaign said they were glad she was chosen as a debate moderator.
"I have a very high opinion of Kristen Welker. I think she's going to do an excellent job as the moderator for the third debate. I think she's a journalist who’s very fair in her approach and I think that she'll be a very good choice for this third debate," Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller told Fox News, according to USA Today.
Trump himself previously commended Welker for getting the position on Weekend Today, telling reporters that NBC "made a very wise decision."
During a September 15 town hall, a Black Philadelphia professor proved to be one of the few able to get the uncouth President in check when he unsuccessfully attempted to interrupt her. Bad move.