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Univision campaigns for Latino-led debate

August 17, 2012|By Meg James
  • Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, right, greets Republican presidential candidate Gov. Mitt Romney during a candidate forum in the run-up to the Florida primary on January 25, 2012.
Univision anchor Jorge Ramos, right, greets Republican presidential… (Felipe Cuevas / UNIVISION )

In advance of the November election, Univision Communications and a civil rights group stepped up a campaign to create an additional forum for presidential candidates to address issues important to Latinos and African Americans — and to get a person of color into the presidential debate schedule.

This week, the Commission on Presidential Debates selected Jim Lehrer of PBS News Hour, Bob Schieffer of CBS News, Candy Crowley of CNN and Martha Raddatz of ABC News as moderators for this fall's debates among candidates for president and vice president.

"It has long been the practice of the television industry to avoid putting people of color in front of the camera for fear of running afoul of ... mass market concerns," Ralph B. Everett, chief executive of the civil rights group Joint Center for Political and Economic Studios, wrote in a letter Thursday to Janet H. Brown, executive director on the Commission on Presidential Debates. 

Everett's firm describes itself as a research group that concentrates on issues of concern to African Americans.

"The Joint Center sees the Commission's exclusion of people of color as moderators from this year's televised presidential debates as derivative of that practice," Everett wrote.

Everett's letter came a day after Univision Communications Chief Executive Randy Falco petitioned Brown to create a fifth forum that would be moderated by a Latino journalist, preferably one from Univision. Falco noted that Latino voters nationwide make up 8.7% of all voters, many of them in swing states Florida, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico.

"We strongly believe the Commission should entertain the notion of adding an additional debate that will speak directly to this burgeoning audience so influential to the presidential dialogue and outcome in order to maximize Hispanic voter participation," Falco wrote.

Brown was not immediately available for comment Friday.

In a letter to Univision, Brown wrote:  "We recognize that there are many organizations and individuals who wish they had been included in our moderator selection.  Debate arithmetic means that it is impossible to accommodate all of them.  However, we strongly believe that the four journalists we have named see their assignment as representing all Americans in their choice of topics and questions.  The general election debates have always focused on issues of national interest that affect all citizens, including Univision’s audience.   We have met with Univision about joint efforts to get the largest number of people possible engaged in discussing and learning from the debates, and remain interested in working with [them] toward that goal. "

Univision News co-anchor, Jorge Ramos, took to Univision's airwaves to mobilize viewers to speak out.

"Hispanics as a voting group are the fastest growing in the country and it is estimated that 12 million Latinos will vote in the November presidential election," Ramos told Univision viewers during the network's evening newscast on Wednesday. "If you want to give your opinion regarding this issue on Twitter, use the hashtag #DebateUnivision," Ramos said.

[This post was updated to include a more detailed response from Janet Brown, executive director of the Commission on Presidential Debates.]

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