It all started back in June. Three Montclair High School students—Emma Axelrod, Elena Tsemberis, and Sammi Siegel—created a petition called “It’s Time for a Woman Moderator: Equality in the 2012 Presidential Debates,” demanding that a woman moderate one of the three presidential debates this election year. In August, the girls were victorious when the Commission on Presidential Debates announced that Candy Crowley, Chief Political Correspondent, CNN and Anchor, CNN’s State of the Union would moderate the second debate on Tuesday, October 16 at Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY.
Crowley, the second woman in 20 years to moderate a U.S. presidential debate, will moderate the Town Meeting format beginning at 9 pm tonight. The historic moment for Crowley and women everywhere is not without controversy, however. On Sunday, Time magazine’s Mark Halperin reported that both the Obama and Romney campaigns have reached out to the Commission with concern that Crowley will ask follow-up questions and/or open new topics, instead of playing a limited role in the debate. The campaigns made an agreement with the commission about the moderator’s role, but apparently Crowley was not told, nor agreed to those terms.
Barista Kids spoke to Emma, Elena, and Sammi about getting what they wished for and the debate controversy:
Barista Kids: How does it feel that your petition drew national attention and that the Commission chose a woman moderator, only the second in history and 20 years since the last?
Emma Axelrod: We’re thrilled and excited to watch a strong female journalist have the chance to prove her authority for the first time in 20 years.
Sammi Siegel: I really want to encourage everybody to sit down with friends or family and watch the second presidential debate. It’s really important to watch Candy Crowley, the first woman to moderate in twenty years, up on that stage in a position of prominence.”
BK: How do you feel about the controversy over how much Crowley should be involved in the debate?
Emma: Crowley has proven herself to be a talented nonpartisan political journalist, and a very professional person. The candidates haven’t even given her a chance to prove that yet. Presidential Debate Moderator is one of the hardest jobs imaginable: you have to be authoritative over two people both vying to be the most powerful man in America. We have no doubts Crowley will rise to the challenge.
Elena Tsemberis: I’m sad to see all of these negative remarks being made about Candy Crowley. She is an extremely qualified and able debate moderator, and seeing these negative assumptions is a disappointing example of all of the sexism still existent in our country.
BK: Will you be at the debate?
Emma: No we have not been invited. The Commission on Presidential Debates picks the audience and they are not our biggest fans right now. Also the audience will consist of only undecided voters and since we have not yet reached voting age we are not in that demographic.
BK: So where will you be watching and will you watch together?
Emma: We still need to decide that but I think we might just watch at my house.