Debate organizers defend Lehrer, despite negative reviews
October 5th, 2012
03:25 PM ET
2 years ago

Debate organizers defend Lehrer, despite negative reviews

Washington (CNN) – The organizational body that has put on every presidential debate since 1987 defended Jim Lehrer after many criticized his performance as Wednesday night’s debate moderator.

In a written press release, the Commission on Presidential Debates pivoted to the debate format they implemented, stating that Lehrer “implemented the format exactly as it was designed.”

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“The Commission on Presidential Debates’ goal in selecting this format was to have a serious discussion of the major domestic and foreign policy issues with minimal interference by the moderator or timing signals,” reads the statement. “Jim Lehrer implemented the format exactly as it was designed by the CPD and announced in July.”

For Lehrer, who is the host of “PBS NewsHour,” Wednesday’s debate was his 12th time hosting a presidential or vice presidential debate – the most of any other person. Additionally, Lehrer wrote a book, “Tension City: Inside the Presidential Debates, From Kennedy-Nixon to Obama-McCain,” about his numerous moderating experiences.

It was, however, Lehrer’s extensive level of “minimal interference” that led to him being panned and mocked, with the Twitter account @SilentJimLehrer launching during the debate.

“I know who lost: Jim Lehrer, PBS, old media and the myth of the ‘sensible center,’” wrote The Nation’s Richard Kim. “Tonight’s moderator, Jim Lehrer, got utterly, totally, savagely pwned.”

After the debate, stories with similar headlines to this New York Magazine piece were everywhere – “Moderator Jim Lehrer Declared the Presidential Debate’s Real Loser.”

The format of the debate consisted of six, 15-minute segments on the economy, healthcare, the role of government and governing. Due to the fact that Lehrer continually allowed the two candidates to go over the allotted 15 minutes, there were only three minutes left for the last category.

In an interview with Politico, Lehrer said his debate performance was “effective.”

“Based on what the goal was, I saw it as successful. I’ve always said this and finally I had a chance to demonstrate it: The moderator should be seen little and heard even less,” Lehrer said. “It is up to the candidates to ask the follow-up questions and challenge one another.”

As for his silence, Lehrer spun it another way.

“I don’t consider that being passive,” he said, “I consider it being effective.”


Filed under: 2012 • Presidential Debates
soundoff (74 Responses)
  1. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Mitt lied, The President bombed, and Lehrer sucked.
    Next.

    October 5, 2012 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  2. HOLY TIGHTY WHITIES WILLARD

    I can care less about how the format was implemented. I was more disturbed by the sofball questions he asked Robmey. Why didn't he ask him about his 47% comments, or "corporations are people" comment, & his numerous flip-flops on EVERYTHING?

    October 5, 2012 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  3. Woman In California

    First of all, Willard was a loud mouth clown, flabbing his arms all over the place with no substance whatsoever. Having said that, Mr. Lehrer your questions were awful and you took no control over YOUR debate. Please retire from moderating ANY future presidential debates.
    Thank you.

    October 5, 2012 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  4. Eric

    Weak!!! Got bullied by Romney. Embarassing

    October 5, 2012 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  5. Crissy

    Ok enough already all of these news outlets got their opinion about how the debate went. Our President did just what he should have done kept his cool and let Mitt defend his self in front of millions. Mitt is the person that does not give a Shi* about 47% of Americans. Mitt came out in defense mode and our President let him have that. Let round two begin :)

    October 5, 2012 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  6. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Lehrer di fine. It was Mittens reversing every one of his previous positions on a national stage that caused the most trouble. Now that Mittens has become a liberal, will the bagger base still support him?

    October 5, 2012 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  7. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    I support Lehrer and there has been moderators in past debates who weren't as good as Lehrer. I support President Obama 100% and Romney did win, this time, so let's be fair about Lehrer.

    October 5, 2012 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  8. Richard T.

    Lehrer let Rommney walk all over him and take control away from the moderator. Impotent is the definition of Lehrer's performance.

    I can not imagine that the debate organizors intentended the moderator to loose any control and responbility a modertor should exert.

    However, it did show that "Republicans stand for raw, unbridles evil and greed and ignorance smothers in ballons and ribbons."- Frank Zappa

    Liars and thugs descibe the Rommney campaign. Of course they have stated that they will not let "fact checkers" control thier campaign and that "etcha-sketch" were central to thier campaign.

    October 5, 2012 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  9. Wake up People!

    No offense to Mr. Lehrer, but this should be your last time moderating a debate. Yes both candidates talked a little longer than 2 minutes, but Willard went completely overboard. He talked over him, he had to have the last word, he didn't answer questions and he lied through his teeth.

    IMO, Willard acted completely shameful and I would be so embarrassed if he were POTUS and that's how he would treat foreign dignataries. My goodness, we would be reviled around the entire world and fighting everyone.

    OBAMA 2012!

    October 5, 2012 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  10. HOLY TIGHTY WHITIES WILLARD

    The way Willard bullied Lehrer is the same way he'll treat all seniors.

    October 5, 2012 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  11. Ancient Texan

    Obama was reduced to a blubbering mass, hanging onto the speaker's stand and begging for his teleprompter. But the faithful Obama worshippers will blame everybody else, including the cameraman.

    October 5, 2012 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  12. truth hurts

    Lefties complaining about the moderator to try and cover for the horrendous job Obama did in the debate. Pretty pathetic. Sounds like some loons in here expected the moderator (look up the word!) to be an attack dog for Obama. I'm sure the CBS clown they selected will please you in this area. He's an Obama supporter for sure.

    One thing he CAN be faulted fro was giving Obama 4.5 minutes MORE than he did Romney. He just refused to cut off Obama's constant rambling. Now I know why Pelosi put this dolt on mute!!

    I wish we could have had these debates years ago so Obama's poor debate performance could have lowered the unemployment rate sooner. By now we'd down around 3% unemployment at the rate he tanks in debates.

    October 5, 2012 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  13. HOLY TIGHTY WHITIES WILLARD

    Sorry CNN, but I bet Candy Crowley won't be any tougher. I'd prefer to see a David Gregory or a Bob Schiefer moderate because neither one of them will let you off the hook without answering the question.

    October 5, 2012 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  14. truth hurts

    Richard T. - Lehrer let Rommney walk all over him and take control away from the moderator
    ====================================================================
    Right, which is why Obama got 4.5 minutes MORE talk time. Romney was trying to get his fair share of time and he still didn't. I know you leftists always want to spread the wealth around but when it comes time to let the other side have their say, that is a very different story.

    October 5, 2012 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  15. HOLY TIGHTY WHITIES WILLARD

    Was it just me or did anyone else recognize how Lehrer's eyes almost popped out of his skull when Willard said he'll cut the subsidy to public broadcasting.

    October 5, 2012 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  16. Sniffit

    Quick, someone make a hysterical youtube video screaming "LEAVE LEHRER ALONE!!!!"

    October 5, 2012 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  17. Gurgyl

    That sob mitt is lying to entire this nation. You got tone an idiot if mitt Romney gets in WH. Just a plain thug and cheat.

    October 5, 2012 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  18. Thomas

    Romney needs to remind his people the importance of respect and how to be a gentleman. His actions showed us that interrupting and being rude is the New GOP right of privlage .

    Romney lost , he was trying to bait Obama to lose his cool . Imagine Romney acting that way in dealing with foreign affairs.

    Romney is a bottom line salesman , not a leader.

    Those that think Romney won are those that wanted a Thrilla in Manila debate , thats not what leadership is about. It's about facts and truth.

    Romney has shown neither , all he showed was that he's an insecure wannabe tough guy !

    It must be nice be unemployed and run for President for the last eight years.

    Jim Lehre did a great job , as he has done over the years.

    I suport Jim Lehre , and my child supports Big Bird !

    October 5, 2012 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    Jim Lehrer needs to retire from moderating the Presidential debates. I want to hear what the candidates have to say, but not when they are allowed to interrupt, talk over each other, and don't obey the time limits because the moderator is unable to control the situation.

    October 5, 2012 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  20. rosco

    Leher did fine he asked they both said let it go. now obambam got his A$$ handed to him,, typical dems blame someone else for the inept ones short commings

    October 5, 2012 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  21. freedom

    They've never complained before. Can't take a loss – wimps!! This moderator let the candidates speak – he's not running for president – they are. I appreciated a moderator who wasn't arrogant and skewed toward one of the candidates. They're compaining because they lost – and they lost big!

    October 5, 2012 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  22. Lynda/Minnesota

    "In a written press release, the Commission on Presidential Debates pivoted to the debate format they implemented, stating that Lehrer “implemented the format exactly as it was designed.”

    First: Presidential debates are a thing of the past.

    Second: Mitt Romney manages to turn everything into a circus. Remember when he whined to AC during the primaries?

    Third: There have been way too many debates this year already and at this late date into the campaign season, it really doesn't matter. Mitt Romney will simply disavow everything he has already said in past primary debates and his own campaign speeches.

    Neither candidate showed their best on Wednesday, thus causing Lehrer have lowered expectations as well.

    October 5, 2012 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  23. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    @truth hurts – you just validated yourself to be a "true idiot", now let that be the "truth that hurts".

    October 5, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  24. Sniffit

    "Lefties complaining about the moderator to try and cover for the horrendous job Obama did in the debate. "

    NO idea what you're talking about. I was furious with Obama. Lehrer had nothing to do with it. In reality, Mittens would have benefitted some from Lehrer reining him in. As we've all found out since the debate (and before, for that matter), allowing Mittens to run his mouth results in tons of lying that he eventually gets called on.

    October 5, 2012 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  25. Rocky Mtn Girl

    Its time for Jim Lehrer to retire as Presidential Debate Moderator. He is not able to control the debate, so both men were allowed to interrupt, talk over each other and ignore time restrictions. Lehrer's questions weren't all that challenging either.

    October 5, 2012 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
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