The Presidential Debate Moderators Lack Diversity

The Commission on Presidential Debates announced on Sept. 2 who will be moderating the upcoming debates between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The good news is that they’re all competent and experienced journalists. The bad news is that the there will be no Hispanic moderators at the presidential debates, and this has already produced an understandable backlash.

Assuming Trump doesn’t drop out at the last minute — he’s held this as a possibility if he doesn’t approve of the moderators and the format — there will be three presidential debates. Lester Holt will moderate the first one, Martha Raddatz and Anderson Cooper will oversee the second, and the third will be helmed by Chris Wallace. Shortly after the lineup was announced, Randy Falco, president of Univision, wrote a letter to the commission protesting its decision not to include any Hispanic moderators in the debates:

Simply put: It’s an abdication of your responsibility to represent and reflect one of the largest and most influential communities of the U.S.. Since 1980, no candidate for President of the United States has has won without at least 30 percent of the Latino vote. We ask again for you to reconsider leaving a Spanish-language moderator out of the presidential debate panels.

To be fair, it’s good that the commission selected at least one nonwhite moderator (Holt) for the events. And it’s not inconceivable that the non-Hispanic moderators will ask incisive questions that concern Hispanic voters. But hopefully the backlash will compel the moderators to do exactly this when they’re crafting their questions.

Nevertheless, Falco made a good point. Hispanics are a rapidly growing demographic in the U.S., and a crucial voting bloc. Immigration has, of course, emerged as nothing less than a central issue in this election season. Perhaps most importantly, there are plenty of qualified and talented Hispanic journalists who would have made great additions to roster of moderators. As it stands, the lineup is three-quarters white.

To be sure, the vice presidential debate — which is likely to be tamer and more civil than any of the presidential forums — will be moderated by CBS correspondent Elaine Quijano. That’s better than having no Hispanic moderators at all. But it's still problematic, given that the vice presidential debates are often considered to be less important than the presidential ones. Hopefully, the commission will reconsider its decision, and either let Quijano oversee a presidential debate or add an additional Hispanic moderator to the lineup.