In case you haven't noticed, Donald Trump has some concerns about the debate moderators. Monday on Fox News, he claimed, without evidence, that NBC's Lester Holt is a Democrat (Update: Time magazine checked the voter roll in New York. Turns out Holt is a registered Republican). Trump told CNBC last week that CNN's Anderson Cooper will be "very biased."
The Republican presidential nominee hasn't gotten around to hitting ABC's Martha Raddatz or Fox's Chris Wallace yet, but their turns are probably coming. Trump said Sunday on Fox News that the media is pressuring all of the moderators "to go after Trump." (Yes, he occasionally talks about himself in the third person.)
He seems to be forgetting this: Each of the moderators has a record of posing tough questions to Hillary Clinton, too.
This was the very first question in the very first Democratic debate of the primary season: "Will you say anything to get elected?"
The moderator was Cooper, and this was his full inquiry to Clinton: "Plenty of politicians evolve on issues, but even some Democrats believe you change your positions based on political expediency. You were against same-sex marriage. Now you're for it. You defended President Obama's immigration policies. Now you say they're too harsh. You supported his trade deal dozens of times. You even called it the 'gold standard.' Now, suddenly, last week, you're against it. Will you say anything to get elected?"
If Cooper was supposed to be biased in Clinton's favor, he missed the memo. What made the question so good was its total focus on policy. Cooper asked about emails and Benghazi during that debate, too, but he showed that his scrutiny is not confined to a couple of issues on which Clinton has well-practiced talking points. There is no reason to think he won't take the same approach to the town hall-style debate he moderates with Raddatz on Oct. 9.
Raddatz was co-moderator of a Democratic debate in December, and this was her opening question: "Secretary Clinton, in the wake of the San Bernardino attack, you all emphasized gun control. But our latest poll shows that more Americans believe arming people, not stricter gun laws, is the best defense against terrorism. Are they wrong?"
That's no softball. And when Clinton deflected, talking about the need to work with other countries to build "a coalition that is going to take on ISIS," Raddatz cut her off.
"Secretary Clinton, can we stick to gun control?" the ABC anchor asked. "Are they wrong?"
Trump might think Raddatz will allow Clinton to spin questions into stump speeches, but history suggests otherwise.
Holt, too, took a turn as moderator of a Democratic primary debate, during which he asked Clinton about the "reset button" she pressed as secretary of state to symbolize the start of a new era of U.S.-Russia relations — not exactly a favorite subject for the Democratic nominee.
"Secretary Clinton, you famously handed Russia's foreign minister a reset button in 2009," Holt said. "Since then, Russia has annexed Crimea, fomented a war in Ukraine, provided weapons that downed an airliner and launched operations, as we just did discuss, to support Assad in Syria. As president, would you hand Vladimir Putin a reset button?"
Holt's followup was, "What is your relationship with [Putin]?"
Trump has faced plenty of questions about connections to Putin and Russia, but it is worth remembering that Holt has put similar questions to Clinton.
Wallace is the only general election debate moderator who didn't get a crack at Clinton during the primary, but he did interview her on "Fox News Sunday" after the Democratic National Convention in July.
Clinton had resisted appearing on the program for months, and she faced pointed questions when she did:
* At a fund-raiser last year, you said this: "The Supreme Court is wrong on the Second Amendment." Now in the 2008 Heller case, the court said there's a constitutional individual right to bear arms. What's wrong with that?
* Why is this election still too close?
* In the first 12 years after he left the White House, President Clinton made 13 speeches for which he got $500,000 or more. Eleven of those 13 were while you were secretary of state, and they were all paid for by foreign interests. Are we to believe that's just a coincidence?
Trump certainly will have to confront tough questions at the debates. He will just as certainly complain about having to do so. But his suggestion that the moderators will treat Clinton more favorably just isn't supported by their previous interactions.