Debate Moderators, Pro-Clinton Blogger Stirs Listeners

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Listeners and bloggers give their take on Michel Martin's commentary this week on the all-white, all-male lineup of presidential debate moderators. Also, the program shares new information about political history of a Hillary Clinton backer who was a recent guest.

MICHEL MARTIN, host:

And now it's time for Backtalk, where we lift the curtain on conversations happening in the Tell Me More blogosphere, and get a chance to hear from you, our listeners. Our digital media guy Lee Hill is out, so filling in for him is Arwa Gunja. Irva, thanks for stepping up to the plate.

ARWA GUNJA: My pleasure, Michel.

MARTIN: Let's get started. What are people saying this week?

GUNJA: Well, there's been a lot of buzz about our Mocha Moms conversation on home schooling. Now, most of our moms supported the idea, and three out of four of the Mocha Moms had home schooled at least one of their children and had positive things to say. But Trey (ph), a listener from Austin, Texas, who has been home schooled herself, disagreed with the moms. Here's what she had to say.

Ms. TREY (Austin, Texas): My parents pulled me out of school in the late '90s because they feared secular influence. My parents were not prepared, and faked their way through the state's qualification documents. As a result, I went from being advanced to behind, when tested against my peers.

MARTIN: Thank you for that, Trey. What else, Irva?

GUNJA: Well, earlier in the week, you recorded a commentary about the three moderators who were chosen by the Commission on Presidential Debates. Now, many people didn't even know that this decision had been made, but trust me, Michel, you let them know. Let's take a listen.

(Soundbite of Tell Me More)

MARTIN: Let me get this straight. In an election year in which questions about race, gender, and generational change have been central to the public and private discourse, the commission decided that these three white men, aged 68, 71, and 74 respectively, are the only people qualified to question the candidates, when one of the candidates is himself a 70 plus year old white man? Can I just tell you, I'm not hating the players, only the game.

GUNJA: Now, this got a lot of people talking. One listener, Catherine, appreciated what you had to say.

Ms. CATHERINE: Thanks so much for your adroit analysis of the moderators chosen for the upcoming debates. It seems every time our society inches forward regarding issues of race, class, gender, and justice, there's a glaring giant step back. I reserve the hope that your incontrovertible analysis will contribute to a reconsideration of that roster of moderators.

MARTIN: Well, I'm not holding my breath, but thank you, Catherine. And there's one more thing, right, Arwa?

GUNJA: Yes there is, Michel, and we cannot end without this one. This week, we had a blogger and Clinton supporter, Darragh Murphy on, from a group called PUMA, or People United Means Action, to talk about the whole controversy over whether or not Senator Hillary Clinton's name would be put into nomination at the Democratic National Convention. Now, some are making the point that Clinton supporters needed this to happen is a kind of catharsis. Darragh Murphy made the point that this is actually customary, so what's the big deal? And of course, we learned yesterday that Senator Clinton's name will be placed in nomination, but Murphy went on to blast the Democratic leadership for not speaking out about what she considered unchecked sexist behavior toward Senator Clinton by the media and some party leaders. She's part of a group of dissident Democrats who've been hinting that they might not support the presumed nominee Barack Obama in the fall.

MARTIN: Now, here's where it gets interesting. We later learned that Darragh Murphy donated 500 dollars to Senator John McCain back in 2000 when he was running against George Bush, and voted for McCain in the Republican primary. We have to admit that this was an error in the vetting, that we did not know about this before we spoke with her. But you can imagine that upon learning this information, some people got a little upset, like Pamela Merritt, who blogs at Angry Black B, and you'll have to fill in the blank. She also appeared in the segment with Darragh Murphy, and she had this to say.

Ms. PAMELA MERRITT (Blogger, Angry Black B****): I must question her true objective, now that it has been revealed that she was a donor to McCain's campaign. Candidates don't define political parties, policy does, and the policies of Senator McCain are in direct opposition to the goals, values, and beliefs of the Democratic Party, Senator Clinton, and the majority of Americans. So, I question what Ms. Murphy is hoping to accomplish, and I fear that this apparent political stunt will distract from the real dialogues on racism, sexism, and class privilege, that the Democratic Party has begun and this nation desperately needs.

MARTIN: Well, Pam had a little bit more to say which you can imagine, and we will post that on our blog. Now, it took us a couple of days, but we caught up with Darragh Murphy, and this is what she had to say.

Ms. DARRAGH MURPHY (Internet Blogger): I am a Democrat. I have never been a member of the Republican Party, never have been, never will be. For a brief period in 2000 I was un-enrolled in Massachusetts. In 2000 I was very concerned about George Bush and Karl Rove's attempt to manipulate the Republican primaries. I did not want George Bush to be the nominee for the Republicans, and was willing to donate money to John McCain's primary campaign.

MARTIN: She goes on to say that we represent the base of the Democratic Party, and that she donated 700 dollars to Hillary Clinton. We will have her entire statement on our blog also. So that's what happened, right Arwa?

GUNJA: Exactly.

MARTIN: And thank you.

GUNJA: Yeah. No problem, Michel.

MARTIN: And remember, at Tell Me More, the conversation never ends. To tell us more, you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522. That number again is 202-842-3522. Or, you can go to our website at npr.org/tellmemore, and blog it out.

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