Debra J. Saunders

Fellow, Chapman Center for Citizenship Leadership

A fellow with Discovery Institute’s Chapman Center for Citizen Leadership, Debra J. Saunders worked for more than thirty years covering politics on the ground and in Washington, as well as American culture, the news media, the criminal justice system, and dubious trends in public schools and prestigious universities. Her column is nationally syndicated with Creators Syndicate.

As a White House correspondent and columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Saunders followed then President Donald Trump from Saudi Arabia to Singapore, covered campaign rallies, the advent of the White House Coronavirus Task Force and was an active questioner in the James S. Brady Briefing Room. She also covered the early weeks of the Biden administration.

During her 24 years writing a column for the San Francisco Chronicle, Saunders reported on a diverse array of topics in local, national, and international politics including homelessness, dubious education trends like “new-new math,” and federal mandatory minimum sentencing. She successfully championed presidential pardons for a number of nonviolent federal drug offenders. In 2013, then President Barack Obama commuted a life sentence for one such individual, Clarence Aaron, after Saunders spent a dozen years advocating for his release.

Her work took her inside California prisons, including San Quentin’s death row, and opened the door for Saunders to interview California first dog Sutter Brown, spar with then Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown on his use of eminent domain, and wield the Savage Sword of Conan during a one-on-one interview with then California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In 2002, the prestigious National Journal's "Talking Heads" column listed Saunders as a member of the A-team of top political journalists working outside the Beltway. Vaughn Ververs wrote, "An independent voice working for a left-leaning newspaper, Saunders covers California and national politics, as well as the state's political personalities. Her column is frequently a welcome change in tone from the rest of the editorial page, and she regularly throws punches at both sides."

From 1987 to 1992, Saunders served as a columnist and editorial writer for the Los Angeles Daily News where she wrote on Los Angeles schools, crime, police, courts, and politics.

Saunders has written for national publications such as The Wall Street Journal and the Weekly Standard and has appeared as a political commentator on national and international networks including BBC, Fox News and CNN.

She graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Boston with a B.A. in Greek and Latin.