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. Vince

    Its amazing how dems are trying to blame jim lehrer for obamas collapse in front of 60 million americans. The curtain was lifted and we now see that he is incompetant. CNN also calculated the speaking time for each candidate and Obama actually had 5 mins more airtime than Romney. You people have been making excuses for Obama for 4 years. He never takes questions in his press conferences, he does softball interviews (the view, oprah etc) and you wonder why he cant perform when he is challenged to defend his own record. Wake up and see him for what he is: Not Capable.

    October 5, 2012 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    "because neither one of them will let you off the hook without answering the question."

    And you just answered your own question as to why they will never be allowed to host a POTUS debate.

    October 5, 2012 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  3. W l jones

    When one look at the debate the president came away with just what he wanted.and indept look into the mind of his opponent which is a plus.

    October 5, 2012 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  4. Ken in MD

    “implemented the format exactly as it was designed.”

    So it was designed to allow the candidates to talk too long, stay on a topic too long, and ignore the moderator trying to stop them so he could move on? Nice design.

    October 5, 2012 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  5. BD70

    The way I see it is the moderator stepped out and let the candidates have at it. So be it...he is right. They needed talk time...and I must say for Romney ...rant time.

    October 5, 2012 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  6. diane

    I agree with Mr Lehrer. I believe he was very effective. I am sick of the moderators egos. They give speeches everytime they ask a question. Mr Lehrer dis an excellent job!

    October 5, 2012 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  7. lee from wyoming

    The debate format was ridiculous and Jim Lehrer should have had a partner, so as not to be outnumbered!!!! And, oh yes, Mitt might have talked about Big Bird, but he acted like the pink Energizer bunny -- on steroids. Flapping his arms, indeed.

    October 5, 2012 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  8. REALITY

    Obama lost, Romney won. If anyone should get replaced it should be Obamas debate coach!

    October 5, 2012 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  9. myviewis

    Obama was lost without his teleprompter, had no idea what he was saying, he was nervous and to me he looked weak. Obama does not do well when he doesn't have a well written, thought out script in front of him and only he is talking. Obama was overpowered by Romney. Blaming Lehrer or anyone else is sad.

    October 5, 2012 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  10. Me IN HOUSTON

    Let me say
    -I am a Liberal
    -I watched the debate
    -In my opinion Obama lost that debate by himself. The crappy moderator had nothing to do with Obama's crappy performance.
    -Leher was in fact a terrible moderator. He did not do a good job

    October 5, 2012 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  11. myviewis

    Its amazing how dems are trying to blame jim lehrer for obamas collapse in front of 60 million americans. The curtain was lifted and we now see that he is incompetant. CNN also calculated the speaking time for each candidate and Obama actually had 5 mins more airtime than Romney. You people have been making excuses for Obama for 4 years. He never takes questions in his press conferences, he does softball interviews (the view, oprah etc) and you wonder why he cant perform when he is challenged to defend his own record. Wake up and see him for what he is: Not Capable
    -----------------------------–

    Very well said, I agree with you. Millions of Americans got to see Obama for his true qualifications and he showed Americans he is not capable of the job of President of the USA.

    I am sure Obama wishes Whoopi and Joy from the view were asking him the questions.

    October 5, 2012 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  12. jinx88

    Jim was bad period he let Romney run the debate. Period!!!1

    October 5, 2012 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  13. Wally

    Rope a dope people. Watch the next debate an watch the fireworks. Romney is going to think he ran into a buzz saw.

    October 5, 2012 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  14. wisedrdave

    Romney won on facts, passion, compassion, style and substance. It was a Rocky Mountain Beat Down. Obama cannot defend his record-facts are stubborn things.And Obama cannot communicate effectively without a teleprompter. Lehrer was effective by being unobtrusive and letting the candidates debate. The left wants to shoot the messenger because he didn't protect the President like the media and WH Press Corps usually do. The President was unaccustomed to and unprepared for tough questions from a prepared knowledgable opponent unfiltered by media bias and sycophancy. This was a stark "Emperor's New Clothes" exposure for all the world to see.

    October 5, 2012 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  15. thetruthandnothingbutthetruth

    romney was like the bull to the bull fighter...charge in...lunge....charge...lunge....BUT, we all know what happens to that bull in the end! (insert wink)

    October 5, 2012 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  16. DENNA

    Lehrer looked like he had been kept up past his bedtime. Wasn't he supposed to ask some questions or something.? Next time get George Stephanopoulos from ABC news. He annoys the heck out of me sometimes, but he is on top of it. Of course Leher could have been in the tank for Oily Smile Mittens. That's something George would not let come through. I can't even tell who he's for because Stephanopolous is thourough. But go ahead and defend Lehrer Mitt apologists. Mitt creeps me out. Can't vote for anyone who reminds me of a child molester.

    October 5, 2012 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  17. Harry Carroll

    Jim, you did a masterful job.A good Marine Officer knows when to hold em and when to fold em.You make those of us from TBS 4-56 proud!

    October 5, 2012 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  18. Farrok

    The “moderator” in the debate was a complete yoyo and an idiot. He would not let the President get a word in edgewise and would let Mitt Romney ramble on and on………….. Don’t can Big Bird can the Moderator!

    October 5, 2012 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  19. JS

    "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."

    In the debate Obama got more time to talk than Romney did. Obama ignored Lehrer and kept talking when he was told his time was up. And yes Romney was supposed to get the last word in the first segment since Obama got the first word. That's how it works. When Romney went first Obama got the last word. And fact checkers have found even more Obama lies than Romney lies form the debate.

    Romney/Ryan 2012

    October 5, 2012 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  20. truth hurts

    Wally - Rope a dope people. Watch the next debate an watch the fireworks. Romney is going to think he ran into a buzz saw.
    ===========================================================================================
    More like Obama-Dope-on-a-Rope... It was painfully clear to everybody watching Obama was believing his own BS campaign commericals and had ZERO grasp of the facts. Obama is down right DUMB without a teleprompter.

    October 5, 2012 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  21. Marie MD

    Nobody with any manners could have been moderator for this debate. The twit was rude and looked like a little beauty king who wasn't getting his way.
    After watching this other side of him I see how he rounded up a posse to run after, corner and cut the hair of a gay student at a prep school. He thinks he is better than anyone else.

    October 5, 2012 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  22. Lynda/Minnesota

    "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."

    Apparently GOPers aren't too concerned about Mitt Romney lies. Sounds as if they are encouraging the lies. The more he lies, the bigger the support he gets from them. Go figure.

    October 5, 2012 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  23. Denny

    It was the best debate I've ever seen. The candidates engaged each other and Jim allowed what I would call – DEBATE.

    October 5, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  24. Ind.

    Just like Hussein Obama defending his lies.

    October 5, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  25. rs

    TV hosts are only as good as what they have to work with.

    October 5, 2012 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
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