Who is Kristen Welker? Meet the NBC News correspondent who will moderate the final presidential debate

NBC News correspondent Kristen Welker
(NBC News)

NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker has the task of keeping the second and final presidential debate under control when President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden meet Thursday at Belmont University in Nashville.

The Commission on Presidential Debates is giving Welker a hand in avoiding the constant interruptions that plagued the first showdown on Sept. 29. The microphone of the candidate not speaking will be muted during the opening two minutes for each of the six segments of the 90-minute debate, which will air across the major broadcast and cable news networks.

Welker, 44, is well acquainted with both candidates, having covered Biden’s years in the Obama administration and Trump’s first term in the White House. She joined NBC News in 2010 after a five-year stint as a reporter and anchor at TV station WCAU in her hometown of Philadelphia.


After putting in time at the network’s Los Angeles bureau, she was assigned to the White House in late 2011. Earlier this year, she added coanchor duties on “Weekend Today,” the Saturday edition of the network’s morning news franchise.

Here is what you need to know about Welker.

Welker is the second Black woman to moderate a presidential debate. The Harvard-educated Welker takes her place in history behind Carole Simpson, the former ABC News anchor who handled the second debate between incumbent George H.W. Bush and challengers Bill Clinton and Ross Perot in 1992. The late Gwen Ifill handled the vice presidential debates in 2004 and 2008 and was among the women who mentored Welker when she arrived in Washington.

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“She made a point of taking me to dinner where she shared some of her insights with me,” Welker said in a speech when she was honored at the 7th Annual Washington Women in Journalism Awards. “I will never forget how generous she was with her time and her continued support.”

She got a shout out from Trump after her last promotion. Trump has disparaged Welker in rally speeches and on Twitter — his standard tactic with moderators before a debate. But in January, Trump publicly congratulated Welker at a press conference when she was named coanchor for “Weekend Today.” “They made a very wise decision,” the president said.

Trump senior advisor Jason Miller also praised Welker during a Fox News interview. “I think she’s a journalist who is very fair in her approach,” Miller said. “And I think she’ll be a very good choice for this third debate.”

She did not delete her Twitter account. Trump made the false claim in a rally speech. Welker temporarily disabled her account after Steve Scully, the C-SPAN political editor who was slated to handle the canceled Oct. 15 debate, said his account was hacked. When it was revealed that Scully lied about the hack, Welker restored her account.

She’s a political junkie who got her dream job. Steve Capus, former president of NBC News, remembers meeting Welker for the first time at an event at Temple University.


“She went on and on about covering Philadelphia government and the importance of Pennsylvania as swing state in presidential elections,” he said. “This interest of hers bordered on the obsessive. Her idea of fun would be to go back and look at video of old presidential debates.”

Capus hired Welker and assigned her to the White House a year later.

Welker’s husband wooed her with presidential trivia. Welker married John Hughes, a marketing executive for Merck, in 2017. Their courtship wasn’t easy to maintain because of her frequent trips on the road covering the Obamas and the 2016 presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. But Hughes showed Welker that he understood the passion she had for her career. On one date, he left her with a gift — a crossword puzzle of presidents with witty clues he wrote himself.

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