Five things to know about Kristen Welker, the moderator of the final presidential debate between Biden and Trump

John L. Dorman
·4 min read
  • Kristen Welker, a veteran NBC News journalist, will host the final presidential debate on Thursday between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

  • Welker will become the second Black woman to moderate a presidential debate solo. The first was ABC News journalist Carole Simpson during the 1992 election.

  • A Philadelphia native, Welker was an intern at "Today" in 1997 and graduated from Harvard College in 1998.

  • Welker has been a White House correspondent for NBC News since 2011.

Welker
NBC News White House Correspondent Kristen Welker. Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Kristen Welker has been a familiar sight for millions of Americans as a NBC News White House correspondent and co-anchor of "Weekend Today," but her selection as moderator of the final presidential debate on Thursday between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden will give her one of the most prominent roles of the 2020 campaign.

Related video: Highlights from Trump and Biden’s first presidential debate

When Welker moderates the debate, she will become the second Black woman to moderate a presidential debate solo. The first was ABC News journalist Carole Simpson in the 1992 race between President George H.W. Bush, then-Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas, and businessman H. Ross Perot.

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced on Friday that Welker selected six topics to discuss with the president and former vice president. They include the coronavirus, race, climate change, national security, US families, and leadership.

Here are five things that you should know about Welker's life and career:

She caught the journalism bug early

Welker, 44, is a Philadelphia native and a graduate of the Germantown Friends School, a Quaker, co-ed educational institution. While in high school, she wrote for the school newspaper.

In a 2010 interview with Philadelphia magazine, she told the publication that she long aspired to become a journalist.

The magazine reported that "as a youngster, she remembers watching 'CBS Evening News' with her dad when anchor Dan Rather was covering a hurricane somewhere, wrapped around a pole and blowin' in the wind."

"My father said, 'That's what you have to do if you want to be a great reporter. You have to go into the eye of hurricane,'" Welker told the magazine.

She has had an extensive career at NBC News

Even before graduating from Harvard College in 1998, Welker had interned at "Today."

From 2005 to 2010, she worked as as reporter at WCAU, the NBC affiliate in Philadelphia, and in 2010, she joined NBC News as a network correspondent. She began covering the White House in December 2011, traveling extensively with former President Barack Obama, former first lady Michelle Obama, and Biden.

In 2016, Welker covered the presidential campaign of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In January 2020, she became a "Weekend Today" co-host with close friend and fellow White House correspondent, Peter Alexander.

"This is something that you dream about that I've worked so hard for,'' Welker said on the show. "It is the honor of a lifetime. It's coming full circle."

She already has experience moderating a presidential debate

In November 2019, Welker co-moderated a Democratic primary presidential debate alongside MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, NBC News journalist Andrea Mitchell, and Washington Post White House reporter Ashley Parker. During the debate, Welker posed questions to Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, among others, on issues ranging from healthcare to housing policy.

She cooly dodged falling lighting equipment while on camera

While reporting in front of the White House on a particularly windy day in April, two lighting cameras fell in front of Welker during her live shot, and she barely broke a sweat.

The veteran journalist briefly stopped to tell Mitchell that she was fine, before returning to the news of the day.

Her love story was featured in The New York Times

In 2017, Welker married John Hughes, a marketing director at Merck, in a lavish Philadelphia wedding. However, before she met Hughes in 2014, her demanding schedule as a White House correspondent often precluded her from dating, as reported in The New York Times.

Mutual friends set up Welker and Hughes on a first date that went well. However, she almost missed their second date due to breaking news and the need to prepare for an impending international trip.

Hughes traveled from Philadelphia to Washington, DC, to take Welker out to dinner. Welker arrived late, but Hughes simply handed her an envelope with a presidential trivia crossword puzzle that he put together while he was waiting for her.

"That's the moment he got me," she told The Times. "As a White House correspondent, it was so touching, and it marked him different than anyone else I ever dated."

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