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Where's the Debate Diversity?

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On Wednesday I interviewed host of CBS' Face The Nation about the race gap amongst the moderators selected for the 2008 presidential debates. Earlier this month Veteran Newsman Bob Schieffer was announced as the host of the final presidential Debate slated for Oct. 15 from Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.

Here is an excerpt from the interview on The Tavis Smiley Show from PRI which will air nationally on public radio stations over the weekend of September 12th.

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Tavis: Bob, it's an honor to have you on this program, Sir.

Bob: Well, thank you so much, Tavis. It's great to be with you, and boy, we've got a campaign here. You know, I was really thinking about retiring last year and folks said, "Don't you really want to be around for one more campaign?" I'm really proud to be here for this one. This has been quite a campaign from the very start and it's going to be interesting from here on in.

Tavis: For Bob Schieffer, what's made it worth sticking around one more time?

Bob: It's just so exciting. I mean, look at all the historical markers here. I mean, it's a cliché to run over them but having said that: to have a woman and an African American being the leading candidates for the Democratic Party. To have a fellow my age, John McCain... that's kind of historic too: 72 years-old out there hitting it everyday, like he's doing. I think it's just a wonderful thing: a good thing for the country. And, I think we have two fine candidates.

Tavis: Let me ask you what I'm sure some will see as a politically incorrect question, maybe too tough, but since you ask tough questions every Sunday, you can handle this. I mean, of course, to cast no aspersion on you but since you mentioned what's made this race so historic -a woman being in it early on and of course having done quite well, 18 million votes or so, an African American, of course, once again this time around in the Presidential debate, with all due respect to you, we have three white males though who are moderating these debates. Might that change sometime in the future?

Bob: Yes, it will change at some point in the future as the industry changes at some point in the future. You know, the debate commission made a decision a couple of campaigns back that they would not have the anchors of the evening news broadcasts as the moderators of the debates because they didn't want these debates to become some sort of rivalry deal between the networks: kind of a promotion type of contest. So, they decided that they would not do that. Had I still been anchoring the evening news at CBS I would not be moderating this debate. But I think what it does, Tavis, is it shows you that we need more African Americans in key spots at the networks in reporting spots. We need more women: there are not very many. So, they go to three old white guys. I guess the one thing you could say is that we'll put plenty of emphasis on social security. But I take the point that people have. We ought to see a more diversified group of people here and I guess they did the best they could.

Listen to the excerpt here:



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