Five journalists, including representatives of NBC News and the Nevada Independent, will moderate the ninth Democratic debate in Las Vegas on Wednesday, February 19.
They are NBC News chief White House correspondent Hallie Jackson, NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt, Meet the Press host Chuck Todd, Noticias Telemundo senior correspondent Vanessa Hauc, and Nevada Independent founder Jon Ralston.
For Holt and Todd, Wednesday also marks their second time moderating in this Democratic primary cycle. The debate, hosted at the Paris Theater, will be broadcast on NBC News and MSNBC as well as the NBC News website, beginning at 9 pm ET.
The timing of this week’s debate — which is the second to take place this month alone — is significant since it’s the last one before the Nevada caucuses on February 22. The event is set to feature six candidates who’ve met the latest qualifying criteria laid out by the Democratic National Committee: former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and, for the first time, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.
To qualify for this debate, candidates had to meet a new set of criteria set by the DNC, Vox’s Emily Stewart writes:
Now, candidates have to hit either a delegate or polling threshold: They have to have landed at least one pledged delegate for the Democratic National Convention out of Iowa or New Hampshire, or they have to get either 10 percent or more support in at least four national, South Carolina, and/or Nevada polls, or 12 percent or more in two state polls in South Carolina and/or Nevada. Polls that take place between January 15 and February 18 will be considered.
As the primary grows more heated — and Super Tuesday approaches — the debate is set to mirror this tension. The debate in New Hampshire, for example, featured prominent sparring between moderates Klobuchar and Buttigieg, and it’s likely even more candidates will take each other on directly on Wednesday.
The moderators for Wednesday’s debate all cover politics in different capacities:
- Hallie Jackson: Jackson is the chief White House correspondent for NBC News and the anchor of the daily news program MSNBC Live.
- Lester Holt: Holt anchors NBC Nightly News, a daily program focused on breaking news in the US and across the globe.
- Chuck Todd: Todd hosts the news and commentary program Meet the Press With Chuck Todd, a show that airs weekly every Sunday. He also serves as NBC News’s political director.
- Vanessa Hauc: Hauc is a senior correspondent for Noticias Telemundo.
- Jon Ralston: Ralston has been covering Nevada politics for more than 30 years and is the founder of the Nevada Independent.
The Democratic National Committee is making a concerted effort to increase the diversity of debate moderators
The DNC has made a commitment to increase the diversity of debate moderators in the 2020 cycle, and has mandated that at least one person of color and one woman serve as a moderator in every debate.
Given how historically white and male the debate space has been, greater diversity among moderators has been a priority for advocacy groups including NARAL, Emily’s List, and Color of Change.
In an open letter last spring, the groups urged media outlets and other organizations to ensure that at least 50 percent of the moderators running the debates were women and at least 50 percent were people of color. UltraViolet, an organization dedicated to gender equity, spearheaded the letter, which also called out sexism in political media coverage writ large.
Though the roster of moderators hasn’t always hit activists’ bar, thus far, the DNC has lived up to its pledge. It began the debates in Miami last June with a diverse group of moderators. The ninth debate will continue that trend: Of the five moderators, two are women and two are people of color.