Chris Wallace Kristen Welker
© Olivier Douliery/ REUTERS; REUTERS/Jim Bourg
Chris Wallace during the first 2020 presidential debate and Kristen Welker during the second 2020 presidential debate
NBC News correspondent Kristen Welker won praise from both the political left and right - including kudos from Donald Trump himself - for finally giving Americans a presidential debate without controversy over moderator bias.

Thursday night's performance by Welker in the final debate between President Trump and Democrat rival Joe Biden stood in stark contrast to the handling of this fall's previous debates and town hall meetings by moderators and hosts. Fox News host Chris Wallace, in particular, was pilloried for his performance in the September 29 Trump-Biden debate, after which he was blasted by Democrats for failing to take control over the conversation and ripped by Republicans for being "shamelessly biased" against Trump.


Welker was aided by a new rule under which each candidate was allowed to speak uninterrupted - with his rival's microphone muted — for two minutes leading off each of six topic segments. But even during those parts of the event where mics weren't muted, there were relatively few interruptions.

Observers such as independent journalist Tim Pool and Washington Examiner columnist Tim Carney praised Welker's performance. Conservative writer Carmine Sabia went further, saying, "Kristen Welker has given a master class on how to moderate a debate fairly. Is Chris Wallace watching."


Wallace, asked his opinion during a debate-reaction panel at Fox News, said: "First of all, I'm jealous. I would have liked to have been able to moderate that debate and get a real exchange of views instead of hundreds of interruptions."


Wallace's implication was that he wasn't given a chance to deliver a more substantive debate, but critics weren't buying that view.

"Don't be jealous, Chris, just be a moderator," one Twitter commenter said. Another said, "That's his fault. She did a great job. She was calm, collected and extremely pleasant," while still another tweeted, "Chris Wallace was just taken to class by Kristen Welker. This is how you moderate a debate. Wallace was a pinata."




Left-leaning journalists, such as PBS correspondent Yamiche Alcindor and Daily Beast editor Molly Jong-Fast, also joined in praising Welker. Glamour magazine declared that "Kristin Welker is winning the debate," while the conservative Daily Caller said Wallace, despite his absence this time, had been the "loser."

For the last Trump-Biden debate to end without the moderator being a point of controversy was one of the night's biggest surprises. Trump had criticized Welker earlier this week, predicting she would be biased against him. "Kristen Welker is terrible," he said Tuesday in a Fox interview. "I mean, she is totally partisan. Her father and mother are big supporters of Joe Biden for a long time."

But at one point in the debate, Trump told Welker, "By the way, so far, I respect very much the way you're handling this, I have to say."

Some viewers were more critical, including one who said he counted Welker interrupting Trump 39 times and Biden just three times. Another said it wasn't so much that Welker did a good job, but that she stood out in comparison to previous moderators. But another Twitter commenter perhaps summed up the night best, saying, "Both sides will say their candidate won. America won because we saw a decent debate. Leave it at that."