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Who is Kristen Walker, moderator for the final presidential debate? | US Election 2020

The first head-to-head debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden saw Chris Wallace in the middle, Steve Scully wasn't needed, and now Kristen Welker steps in.

Who is Kristen Walker, moderator for the final presidential debate? | US Election 2020
JONATHAN ERNST REUTERS

Democrat candidate Joe Biden and current US president Donald Trump will go head-to-head in the second and final live televised debate tonight at 21:00 local time (ET). Let's find out who will have the responsibility for moderating the event, and what tool they may have to keep better control than we saw first time around.

Trump-Biden: who moderated the first debate?

Veteran Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace was named as the moderator for the first head-to-head debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden which took place in Cleveland, Ohio in the run-up to the 3 November elections. The debate was divided into six, 15-minute segments with two minute answers to the first question followed by open discussion for the rest of the segment. It did not go as smoothly as was hoped, with some comparing it to kindergarten level behaviour.

Back in July, 72-year-old Wallace had a one-on-one interview with Trump and grilled the president’s boasts of his skills at excelling in a cognitive tests. Wallace, who career in broadcasting goes back almost 50 years, was also the moderator back in 2016 in the third debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton in Las Vegas.

What does the debate moderator do?

In case you were wondering, a moderator is supposed to act as a neutral during the debate, asking participants questions and making sure they don't stay off-topic and remain within the time limits when answering. Wallace found that the interrupting and refusal to be quiet when asked - primarily by the current president - made it a tough night for him.

What happened to the second debate?

The second of the three debates initially planned was scheduled for 15 October in Miami, Florida. Steve Scully, C-Span's political editor, was lined up to take the reins but in the end he was not required.

We explain what the reasons behind that decision were and what then took place instead. Here's the tweet that sadly never came to fruition. 

Back on 7 October, the vice presidential debate between Mike Pence (Rep.) and Kamala Harris (Dem.), was moderated by USA Today’s Susan Page. Here's how that went.

Trump-Biden debate: who is tonight's moderator?

NBC White House correspondent Kristen Welker had been chosen as the moderator for the third debate in Nashville, Tennessee, which has turned out to be the second and final debate.

She's well-versed in moderating from her work on shows such as Weekend Today and Meet the Press. Whether she will be able to control Trump is the million dollar question, of course, although he's already started his defence by lazily calling her 'biased'.

Welker graduated from Harvard in ’98 with a history degree and has worked at ABC affiliate stations in Redding, California and Providence, Rhode Island. She was with the NBC affiliate in her hometown of Philadelphia before joining NBC News in 2010 where she became a White House correspondent a year later.

She was named 2020’s Outstanding Broadcast journalist at the Washington Women in Journalism Awards last month, and she won a National Emmy Award for her coverage of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash. 

Does Kristen Walker have any extra tools?

Yes she does! After the free-for-all that we saw in the first, and an 'impulsive' president unlikely, or unable, to change his own behaviour, tonight will see the moderator provided with an extra device.

The tool in question will mean that the microphone of the other candidate will be muted to ensure an uninterrupted two minute introduction for each topic. What happens thereafter is anyone's guess.

Why were these moderators chosen?

“We are grateful to these experienced journalists, who will help ensure that the general election presidential debates continue to serve their unique educational purpose of helping the public learn about the candidates,” said Frank Fahrenkopf, Dorothy Ridings and Kenneth Wollack, co-chairs of the debate commission, in a statement.

“Each individual brings great professionalism to moderating and understands that the purpose of the 2020 debate formats is to facilitate in-depth discussion of major topics.”