Why Are Presidential Debate Moderators Almost Exclusively White Guys Over 55?

By Mark Joyella 

Is there a rule that presidential debate moderators should be over 55 and, ideally, men?

When the Commission on Presidential Debates announced its chosen moderators for the 2012 presidential and vice-presidential debates–all white, all over 55, two men and two women. “These journalists bring extensive experience to the job of moderating, and understand the importance of using the expanded time periods to maximum benefit,” the Commission said.

Fusion journalists Dodai Stewart and Alexis C. Madrigal argue the older-is-better-and-white-guys-are-best mentality makes no sense in 2016:


This isn’t what America looks like. Issues around race, gender, immigration, discrimination and justice are not just talking points — they’re a matter of life or death for many. We need moderators who better reflect this reality.

Not only would younger, more diverse moderators influence the substance of the debate, but Stewart and Madrigal note “Hispanic voters age 35 or younger will account for almost half (44 percent) of the record 27.3 million Hispanic voters in 2016. That’s more than any other racial or ethnic group of voters.”

So who do they recommend? Jorge Ramos, Maria Elena Salinas and Lester Holt have the experience, diversity and relative youth to do the job. Last month at the RNC in Cleveland Ramos told us “It is defiantly time for a Hispanic to be one of the moderators and I’m not asking that for me,” he said. Ramos said ABC’s Tom Llamas and Cecilia Vega and NBC/Telemundo’s Jose Diaz-Balart are “three fantastic, great journalists who could be part of the presidential debates and at least one of them should be there.”

In their Fusion piece, Stewart and Madrigal have other ideas:

  • Yamiche Alcindor, The New York Times
  • Perry Bacon Jr., NBC News
  • Darren Sands, Buzzfeed
  • Ed O’Keefe, The Washington Post
  • Abby Phillip, The Washington Post
  • Shira T. Center, Boston Globe
  • Bryan Llenas, Fox News Latino
  • MJ Lee, CNN
  • Nia-Malika Henderson, CNN
  • Juana Summers, CNN
  • Molly Ball, The Atlantic
  • Jorge Rivas, Fusion
  • Terrell Starr, Fusion
  • Katie McDonough, Fusion
  • Jamil Smith, MTV News
  • Sopan Deb, CBS News
  • Vinita Nair, CBS News
  • Katy Tur, NBC News
  • Kristen Welker, NBC News
  • Irin Carmon, MSNBC/NBC News
  • Farai Chideya, FiveThirtyEight
  • Sabrina Siddiqi, The Guardian
  • Jamelle Bouie, Slate
  • Amna Nawaz, ABC News
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