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VP debate moderator hosted Obama at '91 wedding, candidates say no worries

 

Vice presidential debate moderator Martha Raddatz and her former husband hosted President Obama at their wedding more than 20 years ago, ABC News confirmed Wednesday. 

The network, in confirming the fact, also fired back at a report by the Daily Caller which first raised the issue of Raddatz' connection to the president in advance of the lone VP debate on Thursday. 

The network's statement came as both presidential campaigns said they had no concerns over Raddatz's role as moderator of the critical debate.  

"This is nothing but a shameful attempt to smear a well-respected and courageous reporter who is admired by generals, journalists and millions of Americans who count on Martha Raddatz to tell it like it is," an ABC News spokeswoman said in a statement to FoxNews.com. "She has traveled dozens of times to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and reports with neither fear nor favor."  

"This reckless and pitiful attempt to attack Martha in the lead-up to the VP debate is nothing more than a desperate play for web traffic and attention when what the American public wants is a thoughtful and probing debate on the great issues of the day," the statement said.  

The Daily Caller, though, accused ABC News of trying to "downplay" the story. The story also highlighted the relationship between Obama and Raddatz' now ex-husband. 

Obama was a student at Harvard Law School when he attended Raddatz's 1991 wedding to Julius Genachowski, whom Obama would later call upon to head the Federal Communications Commission. Obama and Genachowski were classmates, and Obama was a guest at his wedding "along with nearly the entire Law Review," ABC News said. Raddatz and Genachowski divorced in 1997. 

The Commission on Presidential Debates was aware of the fact when considering Raddatz as a moderator, a representative from the network told FoxNews.com. The spokeswoman also pointed out that Bradford Berenson, who served as Associate White House Counsel under President George W. Bush, was also at the wedding.

"Martha Raddatz is known for her tough, fair reporting, which is why it was no surprise to her colleagues inside and outside ABC News that she was chosen by the Commission on Presidential Debates for this assignment," the ABC spokeswoman said. 

Peter Eyre, an adviser to the non-partisan debate commission, told USA Today that the organization doesn't care that Obama was a guest at Raddatz's 1991 wedding.

"We selected Martha Raddatz because she is a terrific journalist and will be a terrific moderator and we're thrilled to have her. The notion that that somehow affects her ability is not something we have given a moment's thought to," Eyre told the newspaper.

The vice presidential debate in Danville, Ky., Thursday will be the only one between Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and Vice President Joe Biden. Political observers say the pressure is on Biden to deliver a powerful punch, following last week's presidential debate between Obama and Mitt Romney where Romney delivered a strong performance.

Asked Wednesday what he thinks Biden's biggest weakness will be at the debate, Ryan said: "Barack Obama's record." 

The Daily Caller's report on Raddatz is not the first time a debate moderator has come under scrutiny. Gwen Ifill, of PBS, who hosted the 2008 vice presidential debate, came under fire when it was announced she was penning a pro-Obama book to be published after the election. 

Such ties between the political and media worlds are hardly uncommon. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was Time magazine's Washington bureau chief prior to his post with the Obama administration. Veteran ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer worked for President Richard Nixon and NBC's Chuck Todd worked on the 1992 presidential campaign of Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.