Crowley Approach Highlights Moderator Role

CNN correspondent Candy Crowley's role as moderator had been a subject of discussion before the debate even started. An agreement between the candidates about the debate circulated online, where it stated that the moderator would not be allowed to ask follow-up questions, or play any role other than to introduce questions and enforce time limits. Crowley said that the candidates' agreement wouldn't stop her from asking follow-ups, and she did so during the debate.

NEW YORK (AP) — Candy Crowley’s signature moment as moderator of Tuesday’s rough-and-tumble presidential debate came when she was called upon to referee a dispute over President Barack Obama’s description of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya as an act of terror.

When Republican Mitt Romney questioned whether the president had done so, Crowley said, “He did, in fact, sir.”

“Can you say that a little louder, Candy?” Obama said, as the debate’s audience broke into applause.

Similarly, there was applause when Crowley suggested that it also took others in the administration as much as two weeks to abandon the idea that the attacks were related to protests over an anti-Islam video.

“I was trying to bring some kind of clarity to the situation,” Crowley said later. The CNN chief political correspondent was moderating her first presidential debate and was the first woman to do so in 20 years.

It was a town hall-style debate, with a panel of 82 undecided voters brought to a Long Island college stage to put questions to the two candidates.

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Crowley was caught between trying to keep the candidates to time limits yet still being flexible enough not to cut off productive exchanges. The first debate moderator, PBS’ Jim Lehrer, had received some criticism for not policing the debate. Online, Crowley was generally praised for her effort.

She succeeded the first time in stopping Romney from trying to get in some extra words, but not the second time. That led to some social media suggestions that Romney could be hurt by appearing to look disrespectful toward a woman. Later in the debate, however, Obama talked past Crowley’s two attempts to cut short one answer.

She said later that she expected such push-back during the debate and that it didn’t bother her.

“I don’t take it personally at all,” she said in a CNN interview. “I think the first part was fun to watch and I hope enlightening.”

Social media participants also split across party lines regarding Crowley’s intercession in the Libyan questions: Democrats hailed it, while many Republicans called it out of line.

Crowley’s role as moderator had also been a subject of discussion before the debate even started. An agreement between the candidates about the debate circulated online, where it stated that the moderator would not be allowed to ask follow-up questions, or play any role other than to introduce questions and enforce time limits.

Crowley said that the candidates’ agreement wouldn’t stop her from asking follow-ups, and she did so during the debate.

“What about long-term unemployed?” she asked following the candidates’ reply to the first question, from a college student who wondered if he would find a job after graduating.

She also tried to steer the candidates back to the subject when the answer appeared to be wandering, such as when Romney discussed American guns found in Mexico after being asked about an assault rifle ban.

Crowley also surprised some observers with her talkativeness before the debate. Late Monday, she appeared on CNN and was asked by Wolf Blitzer what Obama needed to do avoid a repeat of his first debate performance, widely considered poor.

It was a natural question for CNN’s chief political correspondent, but maybe not for a day before a debate she was moderating.

By contrast, Lehrer, who is semi-retired, turned down requests for interviews a week before moderating the first presidential debate. ABC’s Martha Raddatz, who oversaw the vice presidential debate, also did not talk publicly about the debate beforehand. CBS News’ Bob Schieffer, who is moderating the final presidential debate next week, has purposely stayed away from CBS’ coverage of the first three debates to avoid being put in a position of commenting on the candidates.


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Matthew Castonguay says:

October 17, 2012 at 3:00 pm

How do you know social media opinion about her performance broke down along party lines? Most people don’t list their party affiliations, so clear this “reporting” is actually “analysis”. It doesn’t raise any red flags for you if you think one party thinks she did a fantastic job, and the other thinks she was an attention-hog and partisan disaster? You don’t see any issue in the fact that she’s arguably the most talked-about aspect of the debate the day after? It’s o.k. that she decided to jump in and arbitrate facts, a la McLaughlin Group…in a Presidential debate, for crying out loud? This would be egregious even if her “facts” themselves were dubious, or at best highly debatable (as she herself acknowledged without apologizing this morning)? Semantics vs the obvious larger point that the entire administration tried to pin the whole incident on a “perfectly understandable reaction” to “a horrible, hate-filled film, which we deplore”. What are you smoking? No sir, no bias at AP…just calling it straight down the middle. Another question would be why TVNewsCheck is promulgating this intellectual/professional mush. Fortunately, it seems like the average citizen is a lot more discerning than the chattering class, as early poll results and aftermath of the Biden debacle last week are indicating.

Tony Robinson says:

October 17, 2012 at 4:46 pm

“No bias at AP”–that is precisely why we cancelled their news service!!

Ellen Samrock says:

October 17, 2012 at 6:55 pm

Just what Obama needed as a moderator, an apologist for his Libya disaster.


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