After Teen-Led Campaign, We'll Have Our First Female Presidential Debate Moderator in 20 Years

This morning the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) announced the lineup of debate moderators leading up to the November election. This year's moderators will be PBS NewsHour's Jim Lehrer (first presidential debate), ABC News's Martha Raddatz (vice presidential debate), CNN's Candy Crowley (second presidential debate), and CBS News's Bob Schieffer (third presidential debate).

What's noteworthy about this announcement? The fact that it features a female presidential debate moderator for the first time in two decades. As the Times's Annie Lowrey tweeted earlier today, the last woman to moderate a presidential debate was Carole Simpson in 1992.

Also, half of the overall moderators are women. Not too shabby!

The announcement comes after a weeks-long campaign started by three teen girls on the petition site The petition targeting the CPD was signed by more than 122,000 people. It reads, in part:

We already know that no women will be on stage at this year's presidential debates, but what about in the moderator's chair? We were shocked to find out that it has been 20 years since a woman last moderated a presidential debate.

Moderators are chosen by the Commission on Presidential Debates, which is made up of three women out of seventeen commissioners.  20 years is way too long: we're encouraging the Commission to name at least one woman to moderate one of the three upcoming presidential debates between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.

The CPD made no mention of the young activists, Emma Axelrod, Sammi Siegel, and Elena Tsemberis, though it appears the group got the message.

Unfortunately, the CPD seems to "only allow one kind of diversity in its moderators," as the headline of this Tampa Bay Timesop-ed by Eric Deggans notes:

Here's the thing about diversity in public life; once you have some of it, folks demand a lot more.

That's why I'm a little surprised to see the Commission on Presidential Debates offer a slate of moderators for the four presidential and vice presidential contests which ups the ante of gender diversity, while leaving racial diversity in the dust.

Deggans writes that Gwen Ifill, "who handled two previous vice presidential debates ably....would have been a great choice for one of the slots." Steps forward, steps back, etc.

AlterNet / By Lauren Kelley

Posted at August 13, 2012, 8:58am