NEW YORK -- On the day before the 2008 vice presidential debate, The Drudge Report splashed a photo of moderator Gwen Ifill and suggested it was a conflict of interest for her to moderate the following night's contest.
Four years later, it's Martha Raddatz's turn.
On Wednesday, The Drudge Report -– which helps drive the conservative media conversation online and on talk radio -- prominently linked to a Daily Caller report that President Barack Obama attended Raddatz's 1991 wedding to Julius Genachowski, a former Harvard Law School classmate of the president whom he appointed chair of the Federal Communications Commission. The couple divorced in 1997.
While Raddatz's relationship with Genachowski is widely known and the Romney campaign had no objections to her moderating the debate -- before her selection and on Wednesday -- conservative media outlets unsurprisingly seized on the new 21-year-old detail, casting doubts on whether she'll be a fair arbiter in the debate.
"The liberal media/politician/bureaucrat revolving door spins so rapidly, sometimes it's hard to keep pace," wrote NewsBusters' Matthew Sheffield, who added that Raddatz should be replaced.
"Is it too much to ask of our corrupt media overlords that if the president of the United States was a guest at one of your staffers weddings that maybe that staffer shouldn't moderate a vice presidential debate?" wrote Breitbart's John Nolte.
"Maybe she will be fair to Paul Ryan. We will see," wrote Townhall blogger Carol Platt Liebau. "Given her past and connections, however, one cannot help suspecting where her sympathies lie -- and it's difficult to imagine her doing anything that would upset the NY-DC liberal elite cocktail circuit. I'd love to be wrong on that."
Rush Limbaugh said on his radio show Wednesday that Raddatz should tell viewers whom she voted for in 2008 and whom she plans to vote for in November. Limbaugh claimed that ABC was "trying to do everything they could to keep [Obama's presence at her wedding] from being discovered."
Working the refs is not uncommon in a campaign, and The Drudge Report is ground zero for conservatives trying to change or influence the political narrative. Still, it's striking how much the response from Drudge and other conservative web outlets Wednesday mirrors that of early Oct. 2008, with both helping lay the groundwork for future claims of bias in the event the Republican candidate doesn't perform well.
Four years ago, on the eve of the debate, Drudge and conservative bloggers seized on the fact that Ifill was simply working on a book about politics and race in the Obama era, while typically neglecting to mention that the fact she was writing it was no secret. Indeed, Ifill had talked about the book in an interview and it was listed on Amazon. Nevertheless, conservative media raised questions about Ifill's objectivity, prompting national outlets to follow up on the "controversy" over the moderator.
The irony of conservatives making bias claims against Raddatz now is that criticism of her more typically comes from the left, with suggestions that she's too cozy with the U.S. military.
On Tuesday, John Raffetto, father of James Raffetto, a triple amputee injured in Afghanistan, told The Huffington Post that he sought out Raddatz because of her coverage of the soldiers and their families. Raffetto praised Raddatz's "fair reporting style," which he doesn't consider liberal or conservative.
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