UPDATED, with comment from Debate Commission co-chair, Trump: Steve Scully, the longtime C-SPAN anchor who was to moderate the second presidential town hall debate this evening, is being placed on leave after he admitted that he falsely claimed that his Twitter account had been hacked.
Last week, in the face of attacks from President Donald Trump, Scully posted a public message on Twitter directed at Anthony Scaramucci, the former White House communications director, asking him how he should respond. Although many speculated that Scully mistakenly posted the tweet when it should have been a private message, the next day he claimed that his account had been hacked. The Commission on Presidential Debates, which was organizing the events, said that it was investigating.
In a statement, C-SPAN said, “Steve Scully made us and the Commission aware of this new information late Wednesday (10/14). By not being immediately forthcoming to C-SPAN and the Commission about his tweet, he understands that he made a serious mistake. We were very saddened by this news and do not condone his actions.”
The network added, “During his 30 years at C-SPAN, Steve consistently demonstrated his fairness and professionalism as a journalist. He has built a reservoir of goodwill among those he has interviewed, fellow journalists, our viewers, and with us. Starting immediately, we have placed Steve on administrative leave. After some distance from this episode, we believe in his ability to continue to contribute to C-SPAN.”
In a statement, Scully said, “For several weeks, I was subjected to relentless criticism on social media and in conservative news outlets regarding my role as moderator for the second presidential debate, including attacks aimed directly at my family. This culminated on Thursday, October 8th when I heard President Trump go on national television twice and falsely attack me by name. Out of frustration, I sent a brief tweet addressed to Anthony Scaramucci. The next morning when I saw that this tweet had created a new controversy, I falsely claimed that my Twitter account had been hacked. These were both errors in judgement for which I am totally responsible. I apologize.
He added, “These actions have let down a lot of people, including my colleagues at C-SPAN, where I have worked for the past 30 years, professional colleagues in the media, and the team at the Commission on Presidential Debates. I ask for their forgiveness as I try to move forward in a moment of reflection and disappointment in myself.”
C-SPAN, and Scully himself, have gone to great lengths in their programming to not show a partisan bias or affinity. But the message to Scaramucci, who is now a vocal Trump critic, quickly drew attention.
The Commission on Presidential Debates was forced to cancel the town hall event last week after Trump declined to participate in a virtual event. Instead, he is planning to participate in a town hall for NBC News tonight while Joe Biden does a competing event for ABC News.
Frank Fahrenkopf, the co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates, told Deadline that “we were all shocked” by the news about Scully and said that he always viewed the C-SPAN anchor as a journalist with high integrity. “We believed it when he told us” about the hack, Fahrenkopf said. “I am sorry for the position that he is in and for his family,” he said.
Scarmucci wrote on Twitter, “Brutal outcome for a silly non political tweet. Nothing objectionable. Cancel culture going too far.”