Can White Debate Questioners ‘Represent’?

Journal-isms: The Commission on Presidential Debates rejects adding Latino journalists.

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Commission Rejects Adding Latino Journalists

Reacting to complaints that only white journalists were chosen to moderate this year’s presidential and vice presidential debates, the Commission on Presidential Debates said Wednesday that ” . . . we strongly believe that the four journalists we have named see their assignment as representing all Americans in their choice of topics and questions.”

The Commission announced Monday that the moderators for the four debates will be evenly split between male and female journalists for the first time. They are Jim Lehrer of PBS, Bob Schieffer of CBS, Candy Crowley of CNN and Martha Raddatz of ABC.

However, it will also be the first time since 1996 that there will be no moderators of color for either a vice presidential or presidential debate.

Randy Falco, CEO of Univision, wrote to the commission Wednesday, saying it had “neglected to have someone speak credibly to the concerns of Hispanics in America,” and proposed an additional debate to address issues affecting Hispanics. He offered up his anchors Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas as moderators of such a forum.

Hugo Balta, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, said NAHJ shared in Falco’s “disappointment” and urged that a Latino journalist be added to its choices for moderators. He added, ” . . . The last African-American to moderate a presidential race was Carole Simpson in 1992. No Asian-American has ever been at the helm of questioning (presidential and vice presidential debates).”

Balta urged “the leadership of the UNITY alliance: Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), Native American Journalists Association (NAJA), National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) and the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) join us in making this request.”

The commission appeared to reject Falco’s idea.

It said in an emailed statement to Journal-isms, “We recognize that there are many organizations and individuals who wish they had been included in our moderator selection. Debate arithmetic means that it is impossible to accommodate all of them. However, we strongly believe that the four journalists we have named see their assignment as representing all Americans in their choice of topics and questions.

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