NEWSFLASH: A Woman Will Finally Moderate A Presidential Debate Again

After a 20-year absence, a woman will finally take the moderator’s seat in a U.S. presidential debate. CNN’s Candy Crowley, chief political correspondent and anchor of “State of the Union With Candy Crowley,” is the first woman since 1992 to take on the role. Martha Raddatz, senior foreign affairs correspondent for ABC News, will moderate the vice presidential debate.

Crowley and Raddatz will make history: For the first time, the moderators of the four debates (three presidential, one vice presidential) are split evenly by gender, with men moderating the second two presidential. Crowley will take her turn on Oct. 16 in Hempstead, N.Y., in a town hall debate focused on foreign and domestic issues. Jim Lehrer of PBS’ “Newshour” will moderated the first debate in Denver on Oct. 3 and Bob Schieffer of CBS’ “Face the Nation” will moderate the third debate on Oct. 22 in Boca Raton, Fla. The VP debate, with Raddatz at the moderator’s mic, will be held Oct. 11 in Danville, Ky.

Carole Simpson of ABC News moderated the 1992 presidential debate among George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and H. Ross Perot, the last time a woman filled the role.

In June, three high school sophomores from Montclair, N.J., launched a campaign on petitioning the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) to appoint a woman moderator for one of the debates, garnering more than 120,000 signatures. They had learned about the lack of women debate moderators in their high school civics class. Today, petition organizers Elena Tsemberis, Emma Axelrod and Sammi Siegel expressed their happiness on their homepage, with Tsemberis stressing the importance of the issue beyond partisan politics:

This was about equal representation, regardless of political party. When Candy Crowley takes the stage to moderate the debate between Obama and Romney, it will be a victory for all Americans.

There have been three presidential debates every election cycle with the exception of 1996, when Bill Clinton and Robert Dole only debated twice. So why has there been such a shortage of women moderators? Why were savvy interviewers such as Christiane Amanpour and Diane Sawyer passed over in each election cycle? Considering just two of the CPD’s 17 members are women, perhaps the 15 men out-voted them.

While many count this as a victory for diversity, Tampa Bay Times‘ Eric Deggans points out that the CPD focused on only one kind of diversity, because for the first time since 1996 there won’t be any non-white moderators. There’s certainly more work to be done to represent the diversity of American voters. has been the catalyst for several successful petitions started by young women this year, including 14-year-old Julia Bluhm’s appeal to Seventeen magazine to stop digitally retouching photos of women in its pages.

Though the CPD has not said whether the three teens’ petition influenced its decision, the rest of us can’t help but feel inspired by their action–and, perhaps, it will inspire more young women to do something when they face inequality. May we also suggest that, in October, Crowley and Raddatz grill the candidates with some questions related to women’s rights.

Photo of Candy Crowley via Wikimedia Commons.


  1. This. Is. Awesome.

  2. YES! CanNOT wait. 🙂

  3. Naryaquid says:

    Too bad Crowley is a Right Winger.

  4. I wish they chose a feminist woman to moderate the debates. Crowley constantly uses sexist language (she constantly calls herself a layman), most of her guests are male (apparently, she doesn’t think women are real experts at anything) and as far as I can tell, she has never thanked the feminist movement for helping her move ahead in her career.

    I’m sure someone will tell me to “get over it” and be thankful that we have a woman moderator. However, I have found out the hard way that if a woman leader is not a feminist, we will only get superficial change and the male-centric status quo will remain.

  5. Julie Szekely says:

    This is what I cannot figure out:
    Given that Mitt Romney has had an interest in running for political office in this country for years, and given that Mitt Romney has so much money, that he doesn’t know how much he pays each year in taxes, and that he doesn’t (or “they don’t,” as his wife said) know how much is in his blind trust, why hasn’t he spent any time or money on building a history of himself as a person who knows how to create jobs and hence, build the economy, which he obviously could have done in many places in this country, such as Los Angeles, where the city cannot afford to hire people to inspect bank-owned homes for evidence of neglect by owners, so the city might fine those owners. Mr. Romney could have lent Los Angeles the money to hire inspectors, putting hundreds of people to work, who then could have had funds to spend, thus building the economy. As a businessman all these years, Mr. Romney surely must have noticed hundreds of potential opportunities for building businesses that would have employed people, plenty of opportunities to present himself as a person who he knows how to and wants to build the economy. So what has he been waiting for? Why would he leave himself vulnerable to a doubting public when he has had the wherewithal to prove he knows what to do? Why should we believe what he says rather than what he does? Or does he consider himself a model by taking a $77,000 tax break for his wife’s hobby horse?

  6. @Kathy—why is it important that th moderator be a “feminist moderator”. Why is it important if she is a right wing, conservative? I’m sure all the important questions will be asked and it is NOT important the personal and political beliefs of the moderator because they must remain impartial. Being and impartial moderator is more important than anything else

    @julie- what does that have to do with moderator??? Lol just venting about, well, I don’t really understand what your talking about lol


  7. Check out this in depth interview with the three teens who helped to make this happen… the origins of their campaign & why woman moderating pres debate matters

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