USA Today‘s Washington Bureau chief Susan Page will moderate tonight’s first and only vice presidential debate between Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic nominee Kamala Harris at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
The veteran journalist has covered six White House administrations and ten presidential elections during her four-decade career. This is her first time moderating a debate.
“The debates are a crucial part of making our democracy work, and I am honored to participate,” she told USA Today.
While Page has not announced debate topics yet, Pence will likely be asked about his role as the leader of the White House’s coronavirus task force as the U.S. approaches over 210,000 deaths from COVID-19 over the course of the pandemic.
Page recently came under criticism after a congressional investigation revealed her to be the host of an off-the-record event honoring two Trump appointees, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma and Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson.
Video: Fact checking the first presidential debate (NBC News)
The 2018 event was paid for by taxpayer money through CMS, although Page has said she was unaware the agency had been billed by the consultant who Verma hired to organize the event. Page also reportedly paid more than $4,000 herself for catering and other reception costs.
Some have suggested Page’s role may conflict with her ability to cover the Trump administration and have called for her to be removed as a moderator. However, USA Today defended Page, arguing such events are to “honor significant accomplishments of both Democratic and Republican women.”
“USA Today is fully aware of these long-standing events that recognize the accomplishments of women and fall well within the ethical standards that our journalists are expected to uphold,” USA Today spokesperson Chrissy Terrell told the Washington Post.
Page is well known for her coverage of the White House. She is the two-time recipient of the Gerald R. Ford Prize for Distinguished Reporting on the Presidency and has also served as president of both the White House correspondents Association and the Gridiron Club, the oldest association of journalists in Washington.
During her time at USA Today, Page founded and hosts the award-winning video series Capital Download, which features interviews with White House officials, leading members of Congress, as well as former presidents and heads of state.
In 2019, Page authored a biography on former first lady Barbara Bush titled The Matriarch: Barbara Bush and the Making of an American Dynasty and announced she signed a deal to write a biography of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
With Page moderating and Harris on stage, Wednesday’s debate may present the opportunity that many Twitter users called for during last week’s first presidential debate. Viewers argued that the disorderly debate would be better handled if the event featured women.
The debate is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. tonight.
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