If social media is to be believed, there was only one winner of the final presidential debate – the person in charge.
Kristen Welker has been lauded online for her performance as moderator, in particular being praised for keeping candidates to time and not allowing them to talk over her.
The 44-year-old grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and graduated from Harvard in 1998.
She became NBC’s White House Correspondent in 2011, and has since become co-anchor of NBC show Weekend Today.
There have been more than 125,000 tweets about the NBC journalist, who became only the second black woman to moderate a presidential debate alone, 28 years after ABC News journalist Carole Simpson became the first in 1992.
Welker would have still been at school when Simpson moderated that debate between Bill Clinton and George HW Bush.
#Reminder: Only two black women have ever hosted a general election presidential debate.
Carol Simpson (1992) and Kristen Welker (2020). Wild to believe that there’s a whole generation of voters (millennial and Gen-Z) who weren’t alive during the 92′ town hall. #debates #Debate pic.twitter.com/bzFiIqyOy6
— Beatrice-Elizabeth Peterson (@MissBeaE) October 23, 2020
Fox News journalist Chris Wallace faced criticism for his moderation of the last debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, while Susan Page was similarly criticised for how she handled the vice-presidential debate between Mike Pence and Kamala Harris.
But clearly Welker was taking notes from those debates, as she was praised specifically for managing to keep the candidates in line, and controlling the conversation – though she did have the advantage of the candidates being muted during each others’ allotted two minutes.
Fellow journalists have been vocal in their praise for Welker’s performance. NBC’s Chief White House Correspondent Hallie Jackson called it “a career-defining moment“, while news anchor Harris Faulkner said she “gave the American people a real debate“.
And PBS White House Correspondent Yamiche Alcindor said she was “beaming” watching Welker.
I’m beaming watching Kristen Welker. Such an amazing moment for her and for all who know of her hard work and dedication to journalism. Go girl!
— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) October 23, 2020
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow labelled Welker the “clear winner” of the debate, while previous moderator Chris Wallace told Fox News that he was “jealous” of her – wishing that he had been able to take charge of the debate instead.
Chris Wallace: “First of all, I’m jealous. I would’ve liked to have been able to moderate that debate and get a real exchange of views instead of hundreds of interruptions.”
— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) October 23, 2020
It was not just Welker’s colleagues who were positive about her performance. American author Brigitte Gabriel said she did a better job than Wallace, and one person went so far as to suggest she deserved a medal for her performance.
And despite calling Welker “terrible and unfair” ahead of time, Trump took time during the debate to praise the moderator’s performance.
“By the way, so far I respect very much the way you’re handling this,” he said.