NBC “Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt will moderate the first presidential debate on Sept. 26 from Hofstra, the Commission on Presidential Debates just announced.
Holt’s moderator appointment — first reported on CNN by host of “Reliable Sources,” Brian Stelter — will be his second this year. Holt also moderated the Jan. 17 Democratic candidates debate.
Moderators of the subsequent debates are Elaine Quijano of CBS News, who will moderate the first and only vice presidential debate (Oct. 4); Anderson Cooper of CNN and Martha Raddatz of ABC (Oct. 9); and Chris Wallace of Fox News (Oct. 19).
The commission also announced rules for the first debate, which will “have six sections of 15 minutes each on topics chosen by the moderators.”
Securing the post position of these particular debates in this particular election year has been considered — without question — an especially coveted and important priority for the networks. The Sept. 26 Hofstra debate could be the most viewed in debate history, possibly one of the most viewed television events of the entire year. The Oct. 3, 2012, showdown between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney ranks as the most-watched presidential debate (46.2 million viewers) according to Nielsen.
For Holt and “Nightly News,” the appointment punctuates a run of highly visible assignments in recent weeks. He anchored the program from Rio de Janeiro during the Olympics through Aug. 19. “Nightly,” to which he was named anchor a year and a half ago following the suspension of Brian Williams, remains television’s most viewed weeknight evening news programs, averaging about 8.6 million viewers to 8.3 million for ABC’s “World News Tonight With David Muir.”
Meanwhile, Wallace’s appointment as moderator from the University of Nevada in Las Vegas on Oct. 19 is a first — the host of “Fox News Sunday” will become the only Fox News anchor in the network’s 20-year history to have moderated a presidential debate. The Oct. 19 debate will also be a question-and-answer format, while the one on Oct. 9 will be a town hall-style meeting with half of the questions to be posed by audience members.
Wallace, who co-moderated three primary debates, said in a statement, “I am honored to be selected by the commission to moderate one of the debates, and very proud to be the first Fox reporter to get this assignment. It is a big responsibility, and I take it seriously.”