Who Is Steve Scully, the Moderator for the Second Presidential Debate?

He's been covering politics since 1991.

steve scully is a senior executive producer and political editor for c span he's also host of the morning call in show, washington journal for just asking profile
(Image credit: The Washington Post)

After the interesting hour and a half that was the first presidential debate, voters everywhere are interested in—or maybe dreading; you be the judge—the second presidential debate between Joe Biden and President Donald Trump. While not taking place until October 15, the next meeting between the two presidential candidates, which will be moderated by politics veteran Steve Scully, could potentially be a little more streamlined than the first.

First, it'll have a different format. Instead of the moderator calling the shots, the style will be more of a town hall meeting, and questions will come from the citizens of Miami, Florida, where the second debate will take place.

It's also going to have a different moderator: Scully, the political editor at C-SPAN and host of Washington Journal. While there are no guarantees that the second debate won't be the dumpster fire that was the first, Scully's famously calm demeanor could make things easier. Here's what to know about him.

Where does Steve Scully work?

Scully has worked for C-SPAN since 1991. He's currently a producer, correspondent, and host for one of their morning programs, The Washington Journal. He's also in charge of the network's White House coverage. He's even served on the Executive Board of the White House Correspondents' Association, where he was the president of the association from 2006 until 2007.

What is Steve Scully known for?

HBO's Last Week Tonight host John Oliver has featured Scully on the show. Calling him "the most patient man on television," the segment features clips from C-SPAN's morning show, Washington Journal, for which Sully is the host. During the show, viewers call in to express their thoughts on whatever the show's discussing that day, or literally whatever is on their mind. After watching the clip below, you'll want to agree with Oliver because some of the things people say....sheesh!

In an interview, Scully revealed how he came to adopt his chill manner. "I grew up in a family with 12 brothers and sisters. So I have Rush Limbaugh and Rachel Maddow in my family," he said on the radio broadcast The Frame. "So at Thanksgiving and at Christmas, you can imagine what the dinner conversation is like. I kind of apply that when I listen to the callers. We're a town hall forum and this is what America is thinking."

How does Steve Scully know Joe Biden?

Uh, small world much? In a 2011 interview with Cable Center, Scully explained his career history and how he got involved in the world of politics—and it has a lot to do with Biden.

"You know, it was pretty traditional," he said. "I came to school in Washington, D.C., went to American University and had a couple of internships. I worked for Joe Biden, Senator from Delaware at the time, as an intern, so I had my first chance to really see politics up close in Washington, D.C."

After that, Scully worked for Senator Kennedy in his 1980 campaign before going to Northwestern for grad school on scholarship. His original plan was grad school, then law school, but he fell in love with journalism while he was there.

How does Steve Scully know Trump?

In July of last year, Scully and President Trump sat down for a one-on-one interview. Sully asked Trump about his relationship with China, the former presidents he speaks to, and why, a typical day in a life, and more. It's a great example of the kind of questions Sully will ask President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden at the debate.

Has Steve Scully worked on debates before?

For the 2016 presidential debates, Scully was a backup moderator. While he didn't have to come to anyone's rescue, he told Politico that he was totally prepared if they did need him to step up.

"I have the file with me," said Scully before the first debate last year. "If they call me at 8:59 p.m. I'm ready to go, and if they do in the next three debates I'm ready to go as well."

Preparation for those debates required him to look at recent presidential debates and review transcripts of recent interviews with President Trump and Hillary Clinton. So it's possible he used the same research process for the second presidential debate.


Bianca Rodriguez is the Fashion & Luxury Commerce Manager at Hearst Magazines, covering fashion, beauty, and more for Cosmopolitan, Elle, Esquire, Harper’s BAZAAR, and Town & Country. In addition to spearheading commerce content across brands—from writing about wardrobe must-haves and sales at major retailers to strategizing—she is also an avid reader with a deep love and knowledge for books of all genres. More often than not, you can find her lounging with a good book on the weekend.