US

Teens who petitioned for female moderator ‘glad’ first one was a man

Three teenage girls who took on the Commission on Presidential Debates now have some thoughts for the moderators.

Emma Axelrod, Elena Tsemberis and Sammi Siegel, all 16, received attention for a Change.org petition asking the commission to choose a woman to moderate a presidential debate for the first time in 20 years. With CNN’s Candy Crowley hosting the second of three presidential debates on Oct. 16, they got what they asked for.

So now what?

Q: Did you watch last Wednesday’s debate and what did you think of the moderator?

Emma Axelrod: We all watched. I think we were all a little disappointed. There didn’t seem to be a whole lot of attention paid to Jim Lehrer when he was trying to be an authority figure in the process.

Elena Tsemberis: The experience made me glad it wasn’t a woman to do the first one. Because then everyone would be all — “Oh, she couldn’t keep things under control because she’s a woman.”

Sammi Siegel: Yeah, it shows people how difficult it is to be a moderator. People think that it’s an easy job. But they have to make sure everything is on track and on time and it’s probably really hard [sighs] to tell the president to stop talking.

EA: Yeah, and Jim Lehrer’s moderated these presidential debates in the past — he’s had a lot of practice and still had trouble. It will be really interesting to see someone who’s never done this before like Candy Crowley. Maybe she’ll have a new approach or just do it in a different way.

Q: Crowley is hosting the second of three debates between President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney. It’s a town hall format. Do you have any hopes for how she will handle this type of debate?

SS: I hope she learns from Jim Lehrer and sees how much she needs to control the conversation and make sure they answer the questions and not let them segue into different topics.

ET: Initially we were disappointed that it was a town hall debate and she won’t get to ask her own questions. Some people seem to say that she’ll just be walking around with a microphone. But I think it’s more than that. This is the first time in American history that women are moderating 50 percent of the debates, including the vice presidential one this week (ABC News’ Martha Raddatz serves as moderator on Thursday night). I’m just glad we have equal representation.

Q: Are you aware that we have more women running for Congress this election year than any other year in history? What’s your reaction to that?

SS: That’s amazing! I haven’t heard that yet. I’m really happy that women are making sure they’re trying to be equally heard.

EA: Wow, maybe more women will run every year. We really need to get that. I think we should hope for women making up 50 percent of Congress someday. I’m so glad to hear that.

ET: Women have been judged for so long on their appearance rather than their achievements. And hopefully this is a sign that that’s starting to change.