PBS journalist Gwen Ifill, moderator of the upcoming vice presidential debate, dismissed conservative questions about her impartiality because she is writing a book that includes material on Barack Obama.
Ifill said Wednesday that she hasn’t even written her chapter on Obama for the book “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama,” which is to be published by Doubleday on Jan. 20, 2009, the day a new president is inaugurated.
“I’ve got a pretty long track record covering politics and news, so I’m not particularly worried that one-day blog chatter is going to destroy my reputation,” Ifill said. “The proof is in the pudding. They can watch the debate tomorrow night and make their own decisions about whether or not I’ve done my job.”
The day before the Joe Biden-Sarah Palin debate, columnist Michelle Malkin wrote in the New York Post about Ifill’s book, saying, “She’s so far in the tank for the Democratic presidential candidate, her oxygen delivery line is running out.”
John McCain, though, spoke highly of the reporter in an interview with FOX News Channel. “I think Gwen Ifill is a professional and I think she will do a completely objective job because she is a highly respected professional,” he said Wednesday.
In its online description of the book, Doubleday says that Ifill “surveys the American political landscape, shedding new light on the impact of Barack Obama’s stunning presidential campaign and introducing the emerging young African American politicians forging a bold new path to political power.”
Ifill said Obama’s story, which she has yet to write, is only a small part of the book, which discusses how politics in the black community have changed since the civil rights era. Among those subjects is Colin Powell, secretary of state in the Bush administration.
The host of PBS’ “Washington Week” and senior correspondent on “The NewsHour” said she did not tell the Commission on Presidential Debates about the book. The commission had no immediate comment when contacted by The Associated Press. A spokeswoman for John McCain’s campaign did not immediately return phone and e-mail messages.
Ifill’s resume includes jobs at The New York Times, the Washington Post and NBC News. She moderated the 2004 vice presidential debate between Dick Cheney and John Edwards.
She said it was the publisher, not herself, who set the Inauguration Day release date. It will be released then whether Obama wins or loses.
Although Malkin raised the topic of Ifill’s impartiality the day before the debate, the PBS journalist said that Time magazine noted she was writing a book in August, and that it has been available for pre-sale on Amazon.com. The book also is mentioned in a Sept. 4 interview she gave the Washington Post.
Ifill questions why people assume that her book will be favorable toward Obama.
“Do you think they made the same assumptions about Lou Cannon (who is white) when he wrote his book about Reagan?” said Ifill, who is black. Asked if there were racial motives at play, she said, “I don’t know what it is. I find it curious.”