Univision Chief Slams Debate Commission for Lack of Hispanic Moderators

Randy Falco Headshot 2011
Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for Univision

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 19:  Univision COO Randy Falco attends Univision's Upfront reception featuring Hispanic America's Most Beloved Stars at The Edison Ballroom on May 19, 2011 in New York City.

UPDATED: CEO Randy Falco expresses “disappointment on behalf of the millions of Hispanics who do not have a voice in the upcoming presidential debates.”

CNN’s Candy Crowley will be the first woman in 20 years to moderate a presidential debate when she presides over the Oct. 16 matchup between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney. But representatives from the Hispanic and African-American communities are complaining that the Commission on Presidential Debates seeming new inclusiveness does not go far enough.

Univision president and CEO Randy Falco on Wednesday sent a letter to Janet H. Brown, the Commission’s executive director, expressing “disappointment on behalf of the millions of Hispanics who do not have a voice in the upcoming presidential debates.”

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Noting the critical Hispanic voting block in the United States, Falco added that “this November more than 20 million Hispanics could play a critical role in electing the new President of the United States.”

Univision anchors Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas were passed over by the commission, which accepts submissions from news organizations. But Falco is not giving up. In his letter he challenged the Commission to add “an additional debate that will speak directly to this burgeoning audience so influential to the presidential dialogue and outcome.”

Falco offered that “Univision would be willing to create a forum for the presidential candidates to address this sector of our society” with Ramos and Salinas – who are both bilingual – as moderators. 

PBS’ Jim Lehrer and CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer will moderate presidential debates on Oct. 3 and Oct. 22, respectively. ABC News senior foreign affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz will moderate the vice presidential debate on Oct. 11.

The Commission rejected Univision's offer and asserted that the four journalists selected "see their assignment as representing all Americans in their choice of topics and questions." 

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On Tuesday, NAACP executives released a statement expressing disappointment in the all-white makeup of the debate moderators. 

“The lack of diversity among this year's debate moderators is representative of the overall lack of diversity in news media,” NAACP president and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous said in a statement. “Whether it’s as primetime news anchors, debate moderators, or commentators on the influential Sunday morning political talk shows, people of color - and African Americans specifically - are strikingly underrepresented.”

In 2008, PBS’ Gwen Ifill moderated the vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin. Before it announced its selections on Monday, the Commission had come under direct pressure to select a female presidential moderator. Former ABC News anchor Carole Simpson was the last woman to moderate a presidential debate when she presided over a 1992 face off between George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Simpson publicly criticized the Commission and three New Jersey high school students initiated a petition on change.org that garnered more than 100,000 signatures. 

Email: Marisa.Guthrie@thr.com; Twitter: @MarisaGuthrie