In an effort to frame the presidential debates as just another crooked facet in a totally rigged system, Donald Trump complained to Fox's Bill O'Reilly on Monday that the first debate's moderator, Lester Holt, is a Democrat. He said, "By the way, Lester is a Democrat. It's a phony system. They are all Democrats. It's a very unfair system." Whether a debate moderator's political affiliation matters is an interesting question to engage with, but the problem here is that Holt is actually a registered Republican. And so the debate fact-checking begins before the debate itself.
TIME reported that Holt has been a registered Republican voter in the state of New York since 2003. It is true that the third debate's moderator, Fox's Chris Wallace, is a registered Democrat, according to TIME. No affiliations were found in public records for remaining moderators Anderson Cooper or Martha Raddatz.
The debate moderators were selected by the Commission on Presidential Debates, which is described as an independent, non-partisan body presiding over the debates. The New York Times reported that the Commission went to some lengths this year to carefully select moderators that neither Democrats nor Republicans would easily suspect of bias. Of course, that is pretty much impossible to do when you have a candidate who views the entire political system as rigged against him, despite the fact that his unlikely bid for the Republican nomination was a success within that system.
Trump's comments about Holt are a continuation of the "rigged debate" theme that started back in July, when Trump complained that two of the debates (one presidential and one vice presidential) will be held at the same time as NFL games. The Commission on Presidential Debates responded to Trump's criticism, stating that it "started working more than 18 months ago to identify religious and federal holidays, baseball league playoff games, NFL games, and other events in order to select the best nights for the 2016 debates. It is impossible to avoid all sporting events, and there have been nights on which debates and games occurred in most election cycles."
Yup, that sounds totally rigged specifically against you, Donald.
As politicos around the nation eagerly anticipate an answer to the question of how Trump will conduct himself during the first presidential debate, there's one thing we can safely bet on: Unless he's on the receiving end of softballs all night, he'll accuse (Republican) moderator Holt of being unfair to him (and maybe of being a Democrat again, as well). Given the scorn Matt Lauer received for what many perceived as going disproportionately easy on Trump during NBC's Commander-In-Chief Forum earlier this month, we probably shouldn't expect the same from Holt or the other moderators.