Activists Want Women at the Center of the 2016 Presidential Debates

The Commission on Presidential Debates’ historical track record includes only four women moderators, Pauline Frederick of NPR in 1976, Barbara Walters of ABC News in 1976 and 1984, Carole Simpson of ABC News in 1992 and Candy Crowley, CNN, in 2012.  It came as no surprise that the moderator lineup for the 2016 presidential debates includes only one woman: This year, Martha Raddat will co-host alongside Anderson Cooper.

In response, women’s advocacy groups are demanding women’s issues be included in the presidential debates. Feminist Majority created an online campaign that allows the public to easily email Lester Holt, who is hosting the first debate, and the Commission on Presidential Debates to ask them to include issues that concern women. UltraViolet also began a campaign to highlight a lack of discussion surrounding women’s issues and the few number of women moderators.

Wikimedia / Creative Commons
Wikimedia / Creative Commons

The push to include women comes on the heels of heavy criticism Matt Lauer faced for his disastrous interview with Secretary Hillary Clinton, who was interrupted significantly more often than Donald Trump while talking with Lauer in interviews leading up to the debates.

“With the first female major party candidate in history, women’s issues and sexism have played a huge role in the presidential election so far this year,” Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of UltraViolet, said in a press release sent to Ms. “We simply cannot afford for Presidential debate moderators to continue ignoring the issues that are most important to American women.”

UltraViolet also created an online portal asking the public to write in debate questions and vote on which women’s issues are most important.  More than 45,000 votes were cast.

The questions with the most votes were:

  1. As President, will you commit to keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers? (1,202 votes)
  2. Would you guarantee the right to have a safe and effective access to abortion and sexual health services to all women? (931 votes)
  3. Should politicians have the power to ask doctors to give medically accurate information regarding abortions to women? (726 votes)

The organization’s campaign also included a billboard that circled NBC News’ DC office and the Commission on Presidential Debate headquarters demanding women’s issues be introduced in the debate.  The billboard read “Tell the 2016 Debate Moderators: Cover Women’s Issues.”

20160909_121504Michele Sleighel is working on her thesis for a MA in Communication at the University of Texas in San Antonio and has an undergrad degree in PR from the University of Texas in Austin. She’s an editorial intern at Ms. When she’s not researching and writing, she drinks coffee and thinks about researching and writing. She’s very proud of her El Paso roots. 

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Michele Sleighel is a former Research Assistant at the Feminist Majority Foundation. She has an MA in Communication at the University of Texas in San Antonio and a BS in PR from the University of Texas in Austin and is very proud of her El Paso roots. Find her on Twitter @MicheleSleighel