Ten Democratic candidates appeared on stage in Atlanta, Georgia, for the fifth Democratic presidential debate on Wednesday evening, but it was the four women seated opposite them who stole the show, at least a little.
Rachel Maddow, Andrea Mitchell, Ashley Parker and Kristen Welker moderated the debate, held by MSNBC and the Washington Post, and were praised for not only the historic nature of their all-female panel, but the substance of their questions.
“It took a debate with all-female moderators to ask Democrats about paid family leave,” announced a headline from Vox, an outlet with a heavy focus on social issues. Subhedding: “The answers weren’t great, but the question mattered.”
After the debate, MSNBC’s Brian Williams told Maddow, “It would be perfectly fine if you four were named permanent-standing debate moderators.”
She responded with praise for the “professionalism” of Mitchell, Parker and Welker: “Each of them is like nails.” (Mitchell was back on air Thursday morning to anchor NBC News’ special coverage of hearings around President Donald Trump’s impeachment inquiry.)
On Twitter, responses were equally enthusiastic, for the most part.
PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff tweeted a photo of the stage and said, “How far we have come! Four, count them, four women moderators of tonight’s Democratic presidential debate!”
Before offering congratulations to the women, former candidate and current New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he wasn’t surprised the panel “stuck to substance and the issues people want to understand.”
“Raise your hand if you know why the questions were so substantive, smart, and nuanced tonight,” tweeted Glamour Magazine’s Mattie Kahn.
Morning Consult’s Eli Yokley pointed out Welker asked “the first question in a 2020 #DemDebate about sexual harassment and violence.”
NBC News, and by extension MSNBC, are still dealing with the fallout of a sexual harassment scandal, too, of course. Washington Post’s Erik Wemple wrote that NBC News chairman Andy Lack brushed off a question about demands for an outside investigation into the network’s handing of accusations against Matt Lauer when the two of them ran into each other at the debate site Wednesday.