Presidential Debate Schedule: Diversity is Severely Lacking in the Debate Moderators Who Will Grill Obama and Romney For Us

The 2012 presidential debates are rapidly approaching. Millions of people will tune in to watch candidates answer difficult questions about foreign and domestic policy. However, as discerning viewers, we must ask: who exactly asking the questions? 

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced that Jim Lehrer of PBS NewsHour, Candy Crowley of CNN, and Bob Schieffer of CBS News have been chosen to moderate the presidential debates, and Martha Raddatz of ABC News will host the vice presidential debate. These four are perfectly capable journalists and certainly they will do an adequate job in questioning Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Now we must consider whether they are truly representative of the diverse American audience that will be tuning in to watch these four debates.

Many commenters are flooding the internet with support for the two women who have been chosen to moderate the presidential and vice presidential debates. This is certainly a positive step considering that the last woman to hold this position was ABC’s Carole Simpson, back in 1992. Yes, it has been 20 years since any woman moderated a presidential debate. Incidentally, the return of a female moderator to the presidential debates also marks the first time since 1996 that there has not been a person of color moderating at least one debate. It seems that incorporating diversity on one level necessitates sacrificing it somewhere else. The CPD has complete control over this decision and apparently they have not made diversity a priority. Luckily, the American public thought that 20 years was much too long to wait. Emma Axelrod, Elena Tsembris, and Sammi Siegel of New Jersey started an online petition that garnered over 180,000 signatures calling for a female debate moderator. Their petition accomplished its ultimate goal, but why is attracting a female debate moderator such an issue?

One can argue that there is simply a lack of diversity in qualified news journalists. The dearth of moderators of color or females seems to suggest that there is a dearth of qualified individuals that belong to any minority group. Studies seem to support the hypothesis that the overwhelming majority of TV journalists are white and male. Is it even worth the trouble to find new journalists to moderate debates when they are clearly lacking within the industry as a whole?

Undoubtedly the effort is well worth it. Seeing new faces moderating debates is exciting and aspirational for viewers. They can move away from the recognized journalists such as Lehrer, and embrace increasing diversity. Incidentally, Lehrer (who has moderated 11 presidential debates, more than any other journalist in history) has stated that he is no longer interested in the job. The CPD should seriously look into broadening its pool of potential moderators to include new journalists that more closely resemble the audience watching at home. 

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Sonja Karnovsky

Sonja is currently a junior at the University of Michigan studying political science, environmental science, and Spanish. She has been co-director of the of the Center on Economic Policy at the Roosevelt Institute last year and plans to continue in this role. Additionally, she will be co-president of the U-M chapter of the Roosevelt Campus Network during the upcoming year. She is also a member of the executive board for the Michigan Political Union, a group focused on facilitating nonpartisan debate on a variety of topics. Sonja is involved with student organizations on campus interested in engaging students in political thought and activism.

MORE FROM

Hundreds rally in Times Square to protest Donald Trump’s transgender military ban

“I’m out here to support my trans brothers and sisters who have been serving our military for years and years and years."

Several Republicans are strongly denouncing Trump’s military transgender ban

“Anybody who wants to serve in the military should serve in the military. I don’t agree with the president.”

Worried Trump might pardon himself? Blame Alexander Hamilton.

Hamilton might not have been "thinkin' past tomorrow" when he pushed for broad executive privileges.

Harry Truman desegregated the military 69 years ago. Today, Trump banned transgender troops.

Truman wanted to end discrimination in the military "as rapidly as possible."

Here is a timeline of Donald Trump’s relationship with Jeff Sessions

Trump continued his Twitter attacks on Sessions Wednesday — reportedly while the embattled attorney general was in the White House.

How many transgender people serve in the U.S. military?

There's no exact number, but here's what research shows.

Hundreds rally in Times Square to protest Donald Trump’s transgender military ban

“I’m out here to support my trans brothers and sisters who have been serving our military for years and years and years."

Several Republicans are strongly denouncing Trump’s military transgender ban

“Anybody who wants to serve in the military should serve in the military. I don’t agree with the president.”

Worried Trump might pardon himself? Blame Alexander Hamilton.

Hamilton might not have been "thinkin' past tomorrow" when he pushed for broad executive privileges.

Harry Truman desegregated the military 69 years ago. Today, Trump banned transgender troops.

Truman wanted to end discrimination in the military "as rapidly as possible."

Here is a timeline of Donald Trump’s relationship with Jeff Sessions

Trump continued his Twitter attacks on Sessions Wednesday — reportedly while the embattled attorney general was in the White House.

How many transgender people serve in the U.S. military?

There's no exact number, but here's what research shows.