“By not being immediately forthcoming to C-SPAN and the Commission about his tweet, he understands that he made a serious mistake,” reads a statement from C-SPAN. “We were very saddened by this news and do not condone his actions.”
C-SPAN noted his 30-year tenure with the network and “his fairness and professionalism as a journalist. . . . After some distance from this episode, we believe in his ability to continue to contribute to C-SPAN.”
The C-SPAN host had been criticized for several weeks on social media and by conservative media outlets, culminating with President Trump attacking him by name on television, Scully said in a statement. “Out of frustration,” he explained, he sent a brief tweet to Anthony Scaramucci, a former Trump White House communications director who has emerged as a vocal critic of the president, reading “should I respond to trump."
“The next morning when I saw that this tweet had created a new controversy, I falsely claimed that my Twitter account had been hacked," Scully said. “These were both errors in judgement for which I am totally responsible. I apologize.”
President Trump used the development as an opportunity to attack the debate commission on Thursday, claiming on Twitter “the Debate was Rigged!" and “the Trump Campaign was not treated fairly by the ‘Commission’. Did I show good instincts in being the first to know?”
The Trump campaign’s attack on the nonpartisan debate commission began after the Sept. 29 debate with former vice president Joe Biden, which had been marked by Trump’s constant interrupting and moderator Chris Wallace, of Fox News, failing to gain control of the proceedings.
Following the chaos of that evening, the commission announced it intended to "ensure additional tools to maintain order are in place for the remaining debates.” In response, the Trump campaign attacked members of the debate commission, alleging bias, and said it wouldn’t accept changes to the rules.
“Why would I allow the Debate Commission to change the rules for the second and third Debates when I easily won last time?” Trump tweeted.
Following Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis, the debate commission decided on a virtual format for the second debate, a town hall that was to be moderated by Scully.
But then Trump declined to participate, and Biden accepted a standing invitation from ABC for a town hall to take place Thursday night, at the time originally scheduled for the second debate. The Trump campaign then booked a town hall on NBC to air at approximately the same time, a move for which NBC has been criticized.
The incident with Scully is the latest in a string of bad headlines and headaches for the journalists tasked with moderating national political debates this year. Wallace was criticized for not intervening sooner in the first debate between Trump and Biden. USA Today’s Susan Page, who moderated the vice-presidential debate, faced blowback beforehand for having hosted an off-the-record event honoring Trump appointees.
NBC News correspondent Kristen Welker is scheduled to moderate the third debate on Oct. 22.
This post has been updated.