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Dana Bash and Jake Tapper Let Candidates Be the ‘Stars of the Show’

The microphones were muted. So were the moderators.

Despite all the CNN logos filling viewers’ screens, and the nonstop hype that the network had piled onto Thursday’s prime time debate between President Biden and former President Donald J. Trump, the anchors Jake Tapper and Dana Bash mostly receded into the background as they moderated.

There were virtually no real-time fact-checks of Mr. Trump’s numerous baseless assertions. At tense moments, the moderators deferred to the candidates to directly address each other’s claims. And the concerns that Mr. Trump might pick a showstopping fight with his CNN interlocutors proved unfounded.

Mr. Tapper’s name was mentioned only twice in the course of 90 minutes. Ms. Bash’s name was not uttered once.

CNN had made clear ahead of time that its moderators would act as facilitators, not participants. Its chairman, Mark Thompson, called Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump “the stars of the show.” On that front, the network succeeded.

Whether viewers agreed with that approach may depend on their partisan leanings, and some Biden supporters were quick to grumble that the moderators let too many falsehoods go unchallenged.

But the unusual format of this debate — the first in decades to be fully controlled by a single television network — had been fully negotiated and agreed to by both campaigns.

Read more on nytimes.com