Things do get a bit wacky during presidential election season, don't they? Well, this time, instead of the oddities coming from someplace we can all agree on, like Saturday Night Live, it's coming from C-SPAN anchor Steve Scully, who's now admitted to making a false claim about a Twitter hack, and is on indefinite leave from the network.
Here's what happened. Steve Scully had been chosen to moderate tonight's previously planned town hall debate between Donald Trump and Jo Biden. Last week, after several public Twitter attacks aimed at him by the president, Scully posted a tweet of his own to former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, asking if he should respond to Trump. While many people assumed that Scully's tweet was posted accidentally, and was meant to be a private message, it set off another fire storm. The next day, Scully said that he believed his account had been hacked, which led The Commission on Presidential Debates to begin an investigation.
Now, though, Steve Scully has admitted that he lied about the hack, and actually did post the tweet to Scaramucci himself. After alerting C-SPAN and the Commission late on Wednesday, Scully was placed on indefinite leave from the network. In a statement on the matter, obtained by Deadline, those behind C-SPAN said of the decision:
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. 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.
While it does sound like Steve Scully will be able to return to his post at C-SPAN before too much longer, it's clear that his bosses at the network are very unhappy about how all of this has played out, especially since it's all happened in public. Those at the network pride themselves on being even-handed when it comes to reporting on decidedly partisan political issues, and Scully himself has long been seen as a prime example of such journalism. As for what prompted him to lie about the hack, Scully released his own statement to apologize and offer an explanation for his behavior:
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.
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.
It seems as though Steve Scully felt he was backed into a corner, both with regards to his tweet to Scaramucci and with his later lie about the hack. While it took him a while to come forward with the truth, at least he did, has taken responsibility and seems committed to making sure he never has such a lapse in judgment again.
Tonight's presidential debate has been cancelled, but there will be dueling town halls, one with Biden (which airs on ABC at 8 p.m. EST) and another with Trump (airing at the same time on NBC), so you can tune in to those, instead.