C-SPAN’s longtime host Steve Scully, scheduled to moderate next week’s presidential town-hall debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden that may or may not happen, received a robust vote of confidence Friday from Chris Wallace and a host of prominent Republicans the morning after a post from his Twitter account prompted a political media uproar.
Fox News Sunday host Wallace, who moderated last week’s presidential debate, along with Fox News commentator Karl Rove and former Trump White House press secretary Sean Spicer were among Scully’s defenders after Frank Fahrenkopf, co-chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates, announced that a question tweeted from Scully’s feed Thursday night to Trump detractor Anthony Scarmucci—“@Scaramucci should I respond to trump”—was allegedly the result of a hack.
Responding to what many believed was Scully’s mistaken attempt to send a direct message instead of a public tweet, Scaramucci responded, “Ignore. He is having a hard enough time. Some more bad stuff about to go down.”
The exchange provoked a new round of attacks on Scully’s ability to be a fair and non-partisan moderator after Trump campaign officials and others last week suggested that his college-credit internships 42 years ago, at age 18, in Sen. Joe Biden’s mail room and in Sen. Edward Kennedy’s press office cast doubt on his neutrality. On Sean Hannity’s show Thursday evening, the president echoed those allegations and called Scully a “Never Trumper.”
C-SPAN said in a statement to The Daily Beast: “Last night a tweet from Steve Scully, C-SPAN's Political Editor, appeared on his timeline communicating with Anthony Scaramucci. Steve Scully did not originate the tweet and believes his account has been hacked. The Commission on Presidential Debates has stated publicly that the tweet was not sent by Scully himself and is investigating with the help of authorities. When additional information is available, we will release it.”
On Fox News, Chris Wallace said, “Steve Scully has been an honest, fair reporter. I have to say I was somewhat concerned when I heard about this tweet exchange with Scaramucci, but apparently it never happened.”
Wallace added that Scully’s long-ago internships are not a legitimate reason to question his fairness. Wallace pointed out that he, too, was an intern in 1968 for Boston’s Democratic Mayor Kevin White.
Spicer, meanwhile, tweeted, “I spoke w @SteveScully Only interactions w Scaramucci he has had are a June 2018 tv & 2019 radio @cspan interview. He did not send the tweet. Steve is good man & will make an excellent @debates moderator. CSPAN does an amazing job of giving people unfiltered access.”
Also on Fox News, Rove enthusiastically endorsed Scully’s integrity: “Well, if Steve Scully says his account was hacked and he didn’t send the message, I believe him. I’ve known him a long time. I see him as an honorable person. A good choice for the debate moderator. I could see somebody trying to do this. If he says that he didn’t send a text message to Anthony Scaramucci, I would believe Steve Scully. We need to hear from him.”
Wallace commented, “Look, obviously when we talked about it, I said a tweet to Anthony Scaramucci, now leading Republicans against Donald Trump group, was not helpful and was concerning. But assuming that what the commission is saying is confirmed by Scully himself, it becomes a completely different matter.
“I might say an equally concerning matter if there was somebody out there who was hacking into Scully’s Twitter account and making up exchanges with people to try to discredit them when in fact none of that was true, that would be a real effort to try to reshape and distract from a campaign by trying to discredit people who were going to be participating in the presidential debates commission, we have to pursue this with Steve Scully, the commission is saying that Scully never sent that message.”
Scully has confirmed privately that his Twitter feed was hacked, but has not commented publicly.
Meanwhile, Fahrenkopf, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, said on Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade’s radio program: “We looked at it—I’ll tell you what. We went with Steve for a couple of reasons, number one, and I think you’d probably know him: Steve is a man of great integrity, OK? He worked for Biden—he was in law school [actually, he was an undergrad at American University in Washington, D.C.] and he became an intern. You know, law school students are looking to get an intern, that’s when he interned for him.”
Fahrenkopf added, “I don’t know about this question of whether or not he tweeted something out. I do know—and you probably pick up on it in a minute—that he was hacked. There was apparently something now that’s being on television and on the radio saying that he talked to Scaramucci… and that he’s been talking to Scaramucci. He was hacked, it didn’t happen.”
Scaramucci, for his part, tweeted, “I accept @SteveScully at his word. Let’s not cancel anymore people from our culture for absolutely something like this. It’s insignificant. He is an objective journalist.”