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Final debate underscores misstep of Commission on Presidential Debates to not include moderators of color

Latina Lista — In the aftermath of last night’s final presidential debate, President Obama is saying that the election now comes down to a matter of trust.

Bob Schieffer, Candy Crowley, Jim Lehrer and Martha Raddatz

Yet, it was very clear that when it comes to the chosen moderators for these debates, it came down to matters of gender, age and ethnicity in how the debate was moderated and priorities given to the line of questions.

When the Commission on Presidential Debates chose the four moderators: Jim Lehrer,Martha Raddatz,Candy Crowley and Bob Schieffer, the commission immediately came under fire for not including any one of color.

In their minds, it didn’t make a difference. After all, any moderator should be representing all American concerns with their questions. Reviewing the four debates’ questions, we now know that’s not the case. In fact, it was only one moderator who made a conscious effort to be inclusive with her line of questioning — Candy Crowley.

If it had not been for Candy Crowley, the concerns of voters of color would never have been aired. If it were not for Martha Raddatz, the issue of contraception, a woman’s issue, would not have been touched.

Though both women received criticism over their line of questions from some of their media colleagues and the party of the candidate who lost, journalistically speaking, both women exhibited a fairness and an inclusion and control over their assigned debates that both male moderators lacked to varying degrees.

Both women exhibited more control over the candidates than either male moderator. Why is that? One reason may have to do with age. Whether they’re cynical enough of Washington that they know ‘partisan exaggerations’ when they hear it and figure the rest of the country would too or they were too intimidated by the candidates, the male moderators will carry that secret with them.

What we do know is that both men focused way too much time on a narrow range of issues that didn’t resonate as loudly with women and voters of color.

The Univision network, frustrated at the Commission’s selection of moderators, held their own forum. At the time, most in the media and non-Spanish-speaking public thought it was a case of sour grapes. In hindsight, it was the smartest move by a network.

Not because of ratings but because it forced the candidates to discuss issues that we now know would never come up in depth in the regular debates.

These presidential debates, which have been held since 1858, should serve as a lesson to the Commission of the 21st Century and a wake-up call that any future debates cannot be seriously considered representing all Americans if all Americans’ concerns are not on the table — and the only way to do that is to make sure that the reality that exists in our nation is acknowledged — we are a nation of more than just men and women.

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  • AlinaL
    October 23, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    I enjoyed this post very much. We need to be more and more inclusive, not less,representing the very rich diversity we have in this country. I have tremendous respect for the journalists who were chosen, however, there are quite a few excellent journalists of color in both traditional and digital media that would have been excellent choices as moderators and everyone knows it. One at a minimum should have made the list The commission missed the boat.

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