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Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been dogged over the past month by questions of what role she played in marginalizing the alleged victims of her husband’s sexual improprieties. But it wasn’t an issue she had to face in Sunday’s debate on NBC News.

The moderators, Lester Holt and Andrea Mitchell, spared her from having to address a controversy she hasn’t handled that well when it’s been raised in other formats.

The issue didn’t even come up until the very end, and then in a most bizarre way. And Mitchell posed it, sort of, to Bernie Sanders instead of Clinton:

“Mitchell: Senator Sanders, let me ask you a question. You called Bill Clinton’s past transgressions, quote, ‘totally, totally, totally disgraceful and unacceptable.’ Senator, do you regret saying that?”

Sanders called the question “annoying.” It was worse than that. It was outrageous, made even more so by her follow-up scolding of Sanders after he explained he was simply answering a question. “You didn’t have to answer it that way, though,” Mitchell said.

Why would she even think Sanders might regret calling disgraceful behavior disgraceful?

Mitchell could have asked Sanders whether he believed his opponent enabled the former president’s predations by silencing his accusers — as the issue has been framed on the campaign trail. Or better, she could have asked Clinton how she reconciles her treatment of the alleged victims with her claim to being a defender of abused women.

Instead she chose to shill for Clinton. The question came so late in the debate that, conveniently, Clinton never had to respond.

Lots of complaints have been raised this season about the bias of debate moderators. Mitchell’s question was the worst example.

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