Who Are The Women Moderating The Debate Tonight? Hint: They’re All Powerhouse Journalists

Women are taking a front seat (literally) at the fifth democratic debate on Wednesday — and we’re not just talking about the candidates. For the first time in this election cycle, the debate will feature an all-women panel that includes four powerhouse journalists: Rachel Maddow, Kristen Welker, Ashley Parker, and Andrea Mitchell.

It’s no surprise that NBC, which is co-sponsoring the debate with The Washington Post, chose these four specific reporters — Maddow and Mitchell are both NBC News vets, Welker is one of its White House correspondents, and Parker is a White House correspondent for The Post. So, can we expect things to run differently with women in the driver’s seat?


There are still a number of women who are in the running that qualified for Wednesday’s debate, and some have brought up that they are itching to shift the focus of the questions. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard will be on the floor and hopefully tackle the absent women’s health issues throughout the debates thus far. To date, in only one debate (the fourth) did a moderator bring up reproductive rights, though Harris has passionately attempted to open doors to this conversation throughout.

But this won’t be the first all-women moderated debate: In 2016’s general election, two debates made history with only women in the hot seat. The first happened in the January Republican primary and the second in the February Democratic primary. Both debates featured a pair of women who were not interested in the milestone factor, but rather getting to the root of each candidate’s policies. 

“[We] were not chosen for this because we're women. We're going to be there because we're both very smart, very accomplished, substantive people who can conduct a debate,” journalist Trish Regan said in an interview with Elle before moderating a Republican primary debate. 

There is hope, though, that as four women are in the forefront of a pivotal moment for these Democratic candidates, issues around abortion, childcare, paid family leave, and gender discrimination are addressed throughout.

Ahead, read more about each moderator.

Photo: Heidi Gutman/Getty Images.

Rachel Maddow

Maddow already has debate-moderator experience, particularly in this election cycle. The host of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, Maddow moderated the debate in June, when there was a much larger candidate pool. But with her career as a liberal-leaning political commentator, her selection as moderator sparked questions. Although in June, Maddow ultimately rode on the sidelines with the rest of the moderators during a particularly rowdy debate, she brings a treasure trove of experience to the table — beyond her commentator career, Maddow has reported on nearly every platform imaginable, including radio and print. She is also the most commercially recognized name of the bunch.
Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images.

Kristen Welker

A TV host-turned-White House correspondent, Welker is no stranger to covering politicians shouting over each other. Though this will be Welker’s debate debut, she is a seasoned reporter with credentials at local ABC and NBC affiliate stations. You can also catch her filling in on various NBC programs for the likes of Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb. When it comes to her duties moderating tonight’s debate, Welker says that she couldn’t be more excited — and definitely shows it on her Twitter.
Photo: Paul Morigi/Getty Images.

Ashley Parker

Among the lineup, Parker is the only print journalist featured. Beyond that, the former New York Times reporter, who is now White House correspondent at The Washington Post, is only the second print journalist to moderate a presidential debate this year. But you could call Parker a campaign expert — she covered both the 2012 and 2016 presidential campaigns for the Times. Now, Parker is moderating her first debate and is "V excited to work alongside these awesome women — and only the requisite amount of nervous," she tweeted.
Photo: aul Morigi/Getty Images.

Andrea Mitchell

Mitchell is a bona fide journalism vet. As NBC News' chief foreign affairs correspondent, Mitchell has a résumé that dates back a few decades. Plus, she has moderating experience under her belt — she moderated a Democratic debate in 2016. As host of the MSNBC show Andrea Mitchell Reports, the seasoned anchor has a reputation (albeit somewhat controversial) for not shying away from the tough questions, so you can certainly expect her to bring those “aha” moments to the debate floor. 
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