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2012 Debate Moderators And Topics Continue To Draw Scrutiny; Jim Lehrer 'Seething' Over Criticism

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With just a day to go until the first presidential debate, there's been no let-up in the pressure and criticism directed at the Commission on Presidential Debates, the group in charge of the showdowns between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.

From the lack of racial diversity to the questions being asked, every part of the debate set-up is being scrutinized.

The all-white makeup of the four moderators selected has been widely discussed. On Tuesday, Frank Fahrenkopf, the Republican co-chair of the CPD, told Poynter that the lack of diversity in television news was hampering his group's choices, and said the CPD was trying:

“So, we try to make sure that we have women represented… 2008 and 2004 had a black represented [when PBS’ Gwen Ifill moderated vice presidential debates]. We have not had a Hispanic yet; we looked very hard to try to find a Hispanic that met the qualifications. I know that we disappointed the Hispanic community, but you can only do so much of this. I mean, should there be a Jewish moderator? Should there be an Arabic moderator? You can only do so much of this, and so we just do our best.”

The CPD apparently fruitless search for a decent Latino moderator would come as news to Univision's Jorge Ramos and Maria Elena Salinas, who drew widespread praise for their tough questioning of both Romney and Obama recently.

There's also the question of what Obama and Romney will be asked during the first debate. In an unusual move, the CPD has disclosed the topics set to be discussed in the forum. (The economy, health care and "governing" will be debated.) This brought responses from, among other groups, the relatives of some of the victims in the Aurora shooting massacre, which took place very near the debate site in Denver. They sent a letter to Jim Lehrer, the first moderator, asking him to address gun control during the debate.

"To ignore the problem of gun violence where two of the worst shootings in U.S. history took place — Aurora and Columbine — would not only be noticeable by its absence but would slight the memories of our loved ones killed," the letter read in part. Lehrer had no comment, according to Reuters.

On Sunday, MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry noted that mass incarceration and "wage stagnation" won't apparently be discussed. Nor will a whole host of social issues.

Speaking to the New York Times on Tuesday, the moderators expressed a mixture of panic, irritation and Zen calm about the environment leading up to the debates.

Lehrer was described as "seething" about the criticism directed at the CPD for choosing him to moderate. CNN's Candy Crowley said that someone would always be "throwing a shoe at the TV" because she hadn't asked a particular question, but added that she wanted to "throw up" these days thinking about the whole thing.

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