The Washington Post compiled opinions from political commentators, anonymous Twitter users, and elected officials which seemed to point to a consensus: Alex Trebek did a terrible job as moderator.
Here are City Paper’s top five worst Trebek moments:
1. Trebek’s weird, overly long speech about the Catholic Church
Before the debate started, Trebek told the crowd the event would be more of a conversation and less of a traditional debate. But even with that caveat, Trebek’s personal screed about the Catholic Church was bizarre.
Now Trebek is going on a semi-rant about the Catholic church, saying it was terrible and saying not all priests are preying on children. Not really sure the purpose here. All the people who wanted a political PA journalist for the moderator please raise your hand. 🖐️— Ryan Deto (@RyanDeto) October 2, 2018
“I was born and raised in the Catholic Church and I’m just as ticked off as everybody else over what has happened with the church,” said Trebek, 35 minutes into the debate, referencing the Pennsylvania grand jury report on sexual abuse.
Trebek then gave a not-all-priests defense of the Church, saying he believes “that there are Catholic priests out there able to minister to their congregations without preying ... on the young people."
Trebek is entitled to his opinion on the church, but it railroaded what little flow the debate had. Also, he failed to ask the candidates any pointed questions about the Catholic Church scandal, so the topic started and ended with the focus squarely on himself.
2. Trebek's comments on Wagner’s proposed mandatory death penalty for school shooters
Trebek was very interested in the candidates' diverging opinions on the death penalty.
Wolf placed a moratorium on the death penalty in the commonwealth in 2015, citing cost and ineffectiveness. Wagner is supportive of the death penalty and even called for a mandatory death penalty for school shooters.
But instead of letting the candidates debate each other on their diverging views, Trebek got in an argument with Wagner about his proposal. Trebek rightly pointed out that Wagner’s proposal would likely be struck down in the courts, but Wagner rebutted Trebek with a story of the 2014 fatal shooting of a Pennsylvania state trooper.
“He assassinated a trooper, just like he would shoot a groundhog," said Wagner of the killer.
While Wagner is entitled to his emotional response, Trebek spent most of the time bickering with him, instead of allowing Wolf to detail his defense of a moratorium.
Wolf eventually said school shooters should “rot in prison” and Pennsylvania residents went without any actual policy discussion on the pros and cons of capital punishment.
3. Trebek's opinions on the old gerrymandered 7th Congressional District
The game-show host also stepped all over the gerrymandering discussion. Trebek told another personal anecdote about driving through Delaware County and criss-crossing Pennsylvania's old 7th Congressional District.
Wagner says state gerrymandered decisions shouldn't have been kicked up to state supreme court. Wolf responds saying "that is the way the system works." Wagner says "well that is your opinion." actually that is how government works.— Ryan Deto (@RyanDeto) October 2, 2018
Most Pennsylvanians, especially those dedicated enough to watch a gubernatorial debate on an obscure cable channel, know this district was the poster-child of excessive gerrymandering. (It looked like Donald Duck kicking Goofy.) But Trebek still rambled on about it.
He then asked both candidates about the state Supreme Court’s decision to throw out the old maps. Wagner said the decision was wrong and the Supreme Court shouldn’t have drawn the maps.
Wolf interjected and started to explain the process of how the maps were drawn first by Republican state leaders, which was rejected by Wolf, then Wolf submitted his proposal, which was rejected by the Supreme Court, leaving the court with the responsibility of drawing the maps.
Wolf said "that is the way the system works." And Wagner said "well, that is your opinion." (This is how the system works.)
The problem, again, was that Trebek also interjected several times, and the whole argument became convoluted as Wagner tried to respond to two people at once. And then the original question about whether partisan gerrymandering should be decided by courts got lost.
4. Trebek's defense and praise of Wolf’s push for a natural-gas severance tax
There were many instances where Trebek appeared to be siding with Wolf (a huge and obvious faux pas for a moderator), but this was by far the most brazen. Trebek said a severance tax on natural-gas drilling would raise revenue for the state.
Wagner argued that Pennsylvania already has an impact fee on natural-gas drillers, but then Trebek said the impact fee has been lowered over the years. (In a normal debate, Wolf would have probably done this.)
Trebek even conversed with the audience about the severance tax’s ability to raise revenue. Many in the pro-business crowd objected and even booed at Trebek.
The tax would undoubtedly bring in money to the state revenue, but natural-gas companies have expressed concerns the tax would hurt their production and could scale back their employment. So severance-gas proponents see the tax as worthy since the money raised could go to things like public education, while opponents think it would harm the industry and then neutralize the benefits of the raised revenue.
This is the argument that Wolf could have had with Wagner.
5. Trebek's following of Wagner around stage during the candidate's closing remarks
By the end of the night, the flimsiness of the debate was obvious. Wagner later released a statement saying Trebek was “grandstanding.” Watchdog.org found that Trebek “did 41 percent of the talking.”
Wagner closing statement, meanders around stage, says too many potholes & trash on roads. He wants to fix Harrisburg. "I will get more done in the first six months... if I'm elected gov and I don't get anything done then I will change my name to Tom Wolf." Trump-like, but lame— Ryan Deto (@RyanDeto) October 2, 2018
Wolf, with a comfortable lead in the polls and millions of dollars left to spend on his campaign, felt content with a short closing statement.
Wagner, on the other hand, meandered around stage, rallying the pro-business crowd. He said Pennsylvania had too many potholes and too much trash on the side of roads. He said he wants to fix Harrisburg.
He culminated with a pledge. "I will get more done in the first six months ... if I'm elected governor and I don't get anything done, then I will change my name to Tom Wolf."
Wagner appeared to be emulating President Donald Trump, but without the latter's charisma or fan base.
Eventually, Trebek left his chair and attempted to corral Wagner. He was ineffective, much like everything he did that evening.
Here's PennLive's reel: