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This story first appeared in the Jan. 10, 2013 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
“I bet you hate the ‘girl’ question as much as I do,” says Martha Raddatz to fellow veteran journalist, friend and (at times) competitor Candy Crowley, who became the first woman in 20 years to moderate a presidential debate. The CNN correspondent presided over the Oct. 16 town hall throwdown between President Obama and Mitt Romney, which was watched by nearly 66 million viewers.
“Everyone thought they were going to attack each other,” recalls Crowley, a mother of two grown sons. “And I went, ‘Really? I thought they may never stop talking.’”
For her part, ABC News’ Raddatz, with her foreign-policy expertise, steered the Oct. 11 vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan for more than 51 million viewers. (And her star continues to rise at the news division; on Dec. 20, ABC News president Ben Sherwood announced a new title – chief global affairs correspondent – and expanded role for Raddatz that includes primary substitute for George Stephanopoulos on This Week.)
Crowley, 63, maintains she didn’t think too much about breaking the decades-long dry spell, but when the letters from women — young and old — came pouring in, “It hit me,” she says. “The optics matter.” And when in pre-debate interviews on CNN and elsewhere Crowley said she would attempt to get the candidates off of their talking points by pressing them with follow-up questions, both campaigns privately protested — a move criticized as defensive and vaguely sexist.
So would the women subject themselves to the debate ringer again? “In a heartbeat,” says Crowley. Raddatz agrees. “You walk off the stage, and you say, ‘Oh, thank God it’s over.’ And then you think, ‘That was fun.’ I used to say about summer in Iraq [where she has traveled 21 times]: ‘It’s so horrible; I’m never going back in the summer.’ And then you forget, and you go back.”
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