Moderators Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz teamed to ask sharp questions of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and to keep them corralled during many contentious exchanges during the second presidential debate. Sometimes those efforts drew the ire of Trump. “Nice,” he said. “One on three.”
That signal to his supporters on Sunday night is sure to subject Cooper, of CNN, and ABC’s Raddatz to partisan criticism. But it seemed the dual moderators were determined to take a more active role than NBC’s Lester Holt during the first debate, seen by a record 84 million people. They took questions from audience members and viewers in the town hall-style debate, and frequently interjected tough follow-ups.
After an opening question about whether the two candidates were modeling appropriate behavior, Cooper jumped in with a question to Trump about the 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape released on Friday where he was caught making crude remarks about women. “You’ve bragged that you sexually assaulted women,” Cooper said. “Do you understand that?”
He later asked Trump if he had done the things that he talked about on the tape, coming on to women by groping and kissing them. “When you walked off that bus you were 59?” Raddatz later said. “Were you a different man, or did that behavior continue until just recently?”
A direct question from Cooper also compelled Trump to admit he had not paid federal income taxes in nearly 20 years.
Clinton, for her part, was questioned about her use of a private email server while secretary of state, an issue that prompted investigators to conclude she had put some top secret material at risk, although federal prosecution was not recommended. “You don’t call that extremely careless?” Raddatz said.
The ABC newswoman also pointed to the leaked release of speeches Clinton had made to private corporations after serving as President Obama’s chief diplomat. Raddatz noted that Clinton once said a politician needed a private and public position sometimes on issues. “Is it OK for a politician to be two-faced?” Raddatz asked.
The moderators frequently tried to hush the candidates by noting when they had gone past their allotted time. Clinton sometimes bulled past the stop sign and at other times, quickly wound down her answer. When Trump was unhappy, he complained of unfair treatment.
“She goes one minute over and you don’t stop her,” Trump said about his opponent. “I go a second over and you come after me.”
Raddatz replied: “You’ve had many answers.”
Trump objected to Cooper looking to move on to a different subject during a discussion of Clinton’s email issues.
“I’d like to know, Anderson, why can’t you bring up the emails. I’d like to know,” Trump said. Raddatz had asked the initial question on the subject.
“We brought up the emails,” Cooper answered.
“It hasn’t, it hasn’t,” Trump said. “And it hasn’t been finished at all.”
Trump has been critical of the news media, and particularly CNN, in tweets in the weeks leading up to the debate. Cooper brought up Trump’s late nights on Twitter, particularly when he attacked in the wee hours last month a former beauty pageant contestant who had criticized him. Cooper asked whether it was the sign of a disciplined leader.
Raddatz sharply drew out Trump when he was answering a question about how to deal with Syria’s civil war. She pointed out that a position stated by Trump countered that of one outlined by running mate Mike Pence. Trump noted that he hadn’t spoken with Pence on the topic and that he disagreed with him.
In what felt a little like a first debate rerun, the two candidates argued over whether Trump had initially expressed support for the Iraq war. Trump has denied it despite audio evidence, which Clinton again pointed out. Raddatz noted that the topic had been fact-checked.
Toward the end of the debate, the two moderators almost seemed like schoolteachers admonishing their students to be quiet and in asking the candidates to wrap things up so they can get to more questions.
“Thank you very much, both of you,” Raddatz said when they quieted down, to the audience’s laughter.
Cooper and Raddatz seemed anxious to get in one last audience question. A man asked whether each of the candidates could think of one positive thing to say about the other _ a query that proved particularly disarming after 90 minutes of cutting insults.
Clinton said she respected Trump’s children, and Trump said he admired that his opponent was a fighter.
Chris Wallace of Fox News is scheduled to moderate the third and final presidential debate, scheduled for Oct. 19 in Las Vegas.