How are moderators for U.S. presidential debates chosen? The first debate of this election cycle is currently live, and the moderator is Lester Holt - a journalist for NBC.

Is in normal for journalists to be moderators? Does NBC have some special deal to have one of their employees be the moderator?

  • Given how everything else is agreed upon by the candidates, I would say that at least the final step is getting the candidates to agree. Probably the network offers some options until one is accepted by both sides.
    – SJuan76
    Sep 27, 2016 at 7:32

1 Answer 1


There is an organization called the Commission on Presidential Debates that exists purely to work out details of the debates. They negotiate with the candidates and the networks.

The moderators are overwhelmingly television journalists. You can see who moderated past debates on the debate commission's website. I skimmed through briefly but did not find any examples of non-journalists in the last few examples. This year the big three broadcast networks and the two leading cable news networks each has a moderator.


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