The Democratic presidential debate set to air on CBS April 27 was canceled by the North Carolina Democratic Party. The debate would have been the first for CBS in this election cycle and the first moderated by the team of Katie Couric and Bob Schieffer.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed,” CBS News senior vice president Paul Friedman said, adding that the network was still hopeful that Couric and Schieffer would get a chance to host a forum or debate in advance of the party conventions.
“You have shown tremendous passion and interest in being a part of history as Democrats are poised this year to elect the first female or African-American president,” the NCDP said in a statement. “However, there were also growing concerns about what another debate would do to party unity.”
The NCDP said in the statement that the debate was canceled due to time constraints and logistical issues associated with such a large event. Specifically, the campaign of Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) accepted the idea of having a debate prior to the Pennsylvania primary, while the campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) did not like the dates that had been scheduled. When the new debate was scheduled in advance of the North Carolina primary, the Clinton campaign was on board but the Obama camp remained noncommittal.
“They both accepted the idea of debating in [North] Carolina, but Sen. Obama was unwilling to commit to the date of the debate,” Friedman said.
The cancellation is the latest bump in Couric's rocky year-and-a-half tenure as anchor of the third-place Evening News--a stint which reportedly may end as soon as January 2009. News of Couric's likely early departure itself came on the heels of layoffs across CBS Television Stations Group, including major on-air talent, in late March.