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Brokaw: Debate Moderators Should Get to Use Cattle Prods

Former NBC Nightly News anchor and veteran debate moderator Tom Brokaw says that the one thing he wishes debate moderators had was the ability to deliver an electric shock to the candidates.

With tongue obviously in cheek, Brokaw said in an interview for an installment of NBCU Direct, NBCU’s online promotional video postings, “I think [they should have] an electric shock of some kind, and it would be attached to the two candidates and when they run over or don’t answer a question you get to hit a button.”

But Brokaw was not arguing for capital punishment of long-winded politicians. “It’s a low voltage shock,” he says, “around their ankle, not in any vital body parts. But it gets their attention.”

Even without an electric prod, Brokaw got then vice presidential candidate Dan Quayle’s attention during his moderating of the debate with Lloyd Benson back in 1988. Brokaw elicited Quayle’s famous comparison to John Kennedy and Benson’s retort that he had known Kennedy, been his friend, and Quayle was no John Kennedy.

The next debate is Tuesday, Oct. 16, with CNN’s Candy Crowley moderating, though likely without a cattle prod. It is a town hall debate, so her role will be facilitator rather than direct interrogator, though she has indicated she will try to keep them on point and on track.

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.