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Category: Feminism, Politics, Girls, WMC, WMC in the News

First Woman to Moderate Presidential Debate in 20 years

| August 13, 2012

The moderators of the 2012 presidential and vice presidential debates were announced by the Commission on Presidential Debates today, and Candy Crowley, host of CNN's "State of the Union," will host the second debate on October 16 at Hofstra University in Hempstead, Long Island.

Crowley will be the first woman in over 20 years to moderate a presidential debate. The last woman to do so was Carole Simpson of ABC News, who served as moderator of a 1992 debate between Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Ross Perot.

Crowley was honored at the first Women's Media Center annual Media Awards in 2009 for her clear and probing political correspondence during a contentious election.

This fabulous news comes in the wake of a petition created by a graduate of The Women's Media Center's 2012 Progressive Girls' Voices media and leadership training, Emma Axelrod. With classmates Sammi Siegel and Elena Tsemberis, Emma petitioned the Commission on Presidential Debates to engage a woman journalist to moderate one of this fall’s planned debates. The petition has gotten over 120,000 signatures.

The Women's Media Center team proudly congratulates Emma and her fellow petitioners on this stunning success.

The moderator for the the vice-presidential debate will also be a woman--Martha Raddatz of ABC. The other presidential debate moderators will be Jim Lehrer of PBS and Bob Schieffer of CBS.

While we are thrilled with this news, it's crucial to point out that the Commission on Presidential Debates failed to appoint a single person of color as moderator for the 2012 presidential and vice presidential debates. At the risking of seeming eternally disatisfied with the representation of marginalized communities in media, we would be remiss not to point to this discrepancy.

Furthermore, The New York Times political blog, The Caucus, asserted that "the announcement may not necessarily be viewed as a coup for female journalists." The Gender Report explains why:

Both Lehrer and Schieffer will moderate the two traditional debates at the highest level. In these debates, the moderator selects the topics and questions. In contrast, Crowley will host the only town-hall style debate in which citizens will ask questions of the candidates and the moderator will “facilitate discussion.” And, as previously noted, Raddatz is hosting the vice-presidential debate. In other words, the two debates between the highest level candidates where the moderator has the most influence and say will still be moderated by men.

So, two women out of four presidential and vice presidential debate moderators is great news, but does not necessarily signify total parity and accurate media representation.

Photo: Emma Axelrod. Credit: Carly Romeo, Two Spoons Photography