Ilia Calderón’s Questions at GOP Debate Catch Candidates Off-Guard

She asked about the prevalence of hate crimes against L.G.B.T.Q. Americans, pressed candidates on their past anti-immigration remarks and waded into a dispute in Florida over public school teaching standards that suggested slaves had “developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”

Ilia Calderón, one of the three moderators of Wednesday’s Republican presidential primary debate, may not have been familiar to some viewers who tuned in to the Fox News and Fox Business channels. But her questions appeared to catch some candidates off-guard and touched on viewpoints that are not regularly expressed by leading Republican politicians or Fox’s conservative prime-time hosts.

Ms. Calderón, 51, is a co-anchor of the nightly newscast of Univision, which co-hosted the debate with Fox News Media and broadcast the proceedings in Spanish. Univision producers retained editorial control over Ms. Calderón’s questions.

Early on, she pointed out that Ronald Reagan, whose presidential library hosted the event, had granted amnesty to nearly three million immigrants, and pressed former Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey on a quip he made in 2015 about tracking immigrants the way FedEx tracks packages. (“What we have to do now is first treat this like the law enforcement problem it is,” Mr. Christie replied, without commenting on the FedEx remark.)

Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida disputed Ms. Calderón’s question about his state’s new African American history standards, calling her premise a hoax “perpetrated by Kamala Harris.” (In fact, the quotation was drawn directly from the standards.) The question led to one of the more memorable moments of the evening: Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only Black candidate onstage, jumped in to declare, “There is not a redeeming quality in slavery,” drawing sustained applause from the audience.

Some conservatives watching along took umbrage. “Another weird question,” a reporter for the conservative Daily Signal wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, after Ms. Calderón asked former Vice President Mike Pence about violent hate crimes against L.G.B.T.Q. people.

More often than not, the candidates did not directly respond to Ms. Calderón’s inquiries. And several times, Ms. Calderón — along with her fellow moderators, Dana Perino of Fox News and Stuart Varney of Fox Business — ran into trouble maintaining order. The candidates repeatedly interrupted questions and spoke over one another, with Ms. Perino forced to issue a stern reminder of the rules.

“We’re going to have to cut your mic, and I don’t want to do that,” she warned at one point, which led to some settling down.

Ms. Calderón was born in Colombia and started her career as a broadcaster in Medellín. She joined Telemundo in 2001 and became a co-host of Univision’s evening news program in 2017. She also moderated a Democratic primary debate in March 2020, presiding along with CNN’s Dana Bash and Jake Tapper over the final meeting between Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.