High school students petition Presidential Debate Commission, demand female moderator

NJToday.net | The Nation

Three high school students from New Jersey will deliver a petition to the Commission on Presidential Debates today asking the body to chose a woman to moderate at least one of this fall's debates. Emma Axelrod, Sammi Siegel and Elena Tsemberis will also petition the campaigns of President Obama and Mitt Romney. Their petition, organized on Change.org, has gathered more than 130,000 signatures.

On the petition's page, the trio writes "Women and men will never be truly equal in our country until they’re one and the same in positions of power and both visible in politics. There is no reason why a woman shouldn’t have a chance to show what she’s capable of by moderating debates in the upcoming election."

On July 25, the CPD announced the format of this fall's planned debates but did not specify moderators. "Moderators will be selected and announced in August," the commission said in a news release.

Commission Executive Director Janet H. Brown told The Nation's Ari Melber the input was "welcome" but that woman journalists are well-represented in the CPD's history.

Turning to the scoreboard on gender parity, Brown argues that the numbers are actually on the commission’s side. She wants people to take in the big picture: if you count the journalists who have been involved in all the general election debates since 1988—including those who served on panels of questioners and those who moderated vice-presidential debates—then “nine are women and twelve are men,” Brown explains.

And yet, the number of women who've moderated a presidential debate since 1992, when Carole Simpson did the honors for a debate in Richmond, Va., is zero. Gwen Ifill moderated a vice-presidential debate in 2008, Melber notes, and she filled the same role in 2004. A spin through CPD's debate histories shows that since Simpson's turn as moderator, Jim Lehrer alone has moderated eight presidential debates and one vice-presidential debate.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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