Oprah and Gwen Ifill

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The other predebate drama concerned a book Gwen is currently writing about the new generation of black politicians, including Newark mayor Corey Booker, Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, Alabama congressman Archer Davis...and presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama. "The book is about all of that and all about civil rights—where it brought us and where it's going, and how we're at this turning point," Gwen says.

Because the book will include commentary on Senator Obama's presidential campaign, some pundits complained that Gwen would be biased during the debate between Governor Palin and Senator Biden.

Gwen says she never hid that she was working on the book. "I've written about it for Time magazine. I've written about it for Essence magazine. It's been written about in Vogue. But for some reason, the day before the debate, all of sudden it became a subject of some drama because a lot of very conservative folks decided—mind you once again, the day before the debate—that this was a pro-Obama book and I was hopelessly conflicted," she says. "As I pointed out to them, to those who wanted to listen anyway, I haven't even written the Barack Obama chapter yet because no one knows how it's going to end."

After the dustup with some conservative pundits, Gwen says she received messages of support from many people, including some working in the McCain campaign. "This isn't fair," she says they told her. "We know you. We know that you're a straight-ahead reporter."