Debate organizers defend Lehrer, despite negative reviews
October 5th, 2012
03:25 PM ET
8 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. Gurgyl

    Just get rid off these old guys. He did not raise questions on 47%, nor Bain etc.

    October 5, 2012 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  2. DENNA

    @myviews: You are a fool. Also how did you like those new employments numbers that came out? I'll bet Mittens screamed like a stuck pig when they came out as good as they did. Wow. I guess the GOP can't control everything. Things were bound to improve eventually. 🙂

    October 5, 2012 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  3. rs

    Truth Hurts-
    "It was painfully clear to everybody watching Obama was believing his own BS campaign commericals and had ZERO grasp of the facts."

    Given Mr. Romney's sudden changes of heart (AND facts), that's pretty funny. He may go down as the most factually challenged man ever to run for President by denying (and misrepresenting) his own tax plan; willfully misrepresenting the President on Medicare; warmly and suddenly emracing universal health care; and on and on.

    October 5, 2012 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  4. matt

    Liberals have no DATA, PERFORMANCE, or FACTS to run on...thus the ONLY option left is to blame:
    [1] Lehrer
    [2] Bush
    [3] whites
    [4] rich
    [5] "the man"
    [6] ....and anyone else who disagrees with them.

    October 5, 2012 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  5. truth hurts

    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.
    Which is why Obama spoke for nearly FIVE MINUTES MORE than Romney did... You need a better grasp on reality. I think Lehrer might have been intimidated by Obama and he refused to cut him off, even when he went WAY over the time limit.

    Obama is famous for endless ramblings. Nancy Pelosi even puts him on mute and let's him ramble on to himself. Romney was clear, concise and to the point. Let's face it, Obama just doesn't know his stuff and can't defend his 4 year record of failure.

    October 5, 2012 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  6. matt


    ask any Liberal what their SOLUTIONS are, and INSTEAD they will tell you "who" or "what" they "hate" or "blame".

    Yes THAT's a great plan.

    October 5, 2012 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  7. Joepub

    Let's put the finger of blame to where it squarely belongs, which is Obama. Let's stop pusssyfooting around and quit giving this president the kid glove treatment. HE HAS BEEN IN OFFICE LONG ENOUGH TO START GETTING BLAME!

    October 5, 2012 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  8. "If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen." --B. Obama

    The uhbama was exposed for the true fraud he is.

    October 5, 2012 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  9. FFoghorn

    I consider myself fiscally conservative, but I will NEVER vote Republican again until the party silences its extremists. Republicans have become a dishonest, desperate bunch of morons who have completely lost sight of the principles the Founding Fathers held dear. Even their demigod Ronald Reagan raised taxes because he understood that that is the only way to increase revenue. I swear, we have the educated, affluent Republicans who think its somehow patriotic to keep their fortunes in unregulated, virtually tax-free offshore accounts - and the rest of the Republicans, a bunch of toothless, ignorant hillbillies who still fly the Confederate flag. Wake up people, you don't vote for a compulsive liar like Mitt Romney who built his fortune on ruining the lives of others!

    October 5, 2012 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  10. truth hurts

    rs - willfully misrepresenting the President on Medicare
    Well, it appears Obama was also "willfully misrepresenting the President on Medicare" when he himself called them medicare cuts during a 60 Minutes interview when it was passed.

    Yes, I know the truth hurts. Especially when the truth is thrown back at Obama with his own words. The American people just aren't believing all of his lies anymore. We've heard them now for FOUR YEARS. And all we have to show for it is $6 TRILLION more in debt. Still no jobs, still no recovery, just more debt, higher prices for food and fuel.

    I refuse to sign up for another 4 years of this root canal!!! I need a dentist that knows what the heck he is doing!

    October 5, 2012 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  11. California Gary

    Romney reminded me of a boxer who has been told by his corner that he is behind in points and needs a knockout to win. He came charging out of the corner throwing wild haymakers and hoping to land the big punch. He showed a lot of energy, and won points based on his aggressiveness, winning the round in the view of most.......but that is not the same as landing the big punch and winning the fight. He has not accomplished that, not by a long shot. When the polls come out (the judges scorecards), I think you will see Obama is still ahead in points.

    October 5, 2012 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  12. Sniffit

    "I'll bet Mittens screamed like a stuck pig when they came out as good as they did"

    Mittens doesn't scream. He lets out effete little yelps.

    October 5, 2012 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  13. DENNA

    @truth hurts: Isn't it time for your meds and a walk in the hospital yard before bedtime? President Obama's performance may not have been the greatest, but that oily creep Mittens lied. Big Bird? Seriously?! Public television is the only decent televsion left on network television. I still peek in on Sesame Street once in a while, since my daughter grew up on that and Electric Company. Oh, but let's not educate the kids, right., The may grow up to be Democrats. Can't have that now, can we?

    October 5, 2012 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  14. Tammy lambert chandler az

    Mitts a bully and loudmouth, remember his right hand man told kiss his a** when all they wanted was to ask mitt questions. I also havent forgotten the fact that Mitt attacked a young man in college and cut all his hair off. He is a loud mouth , red faced bully..who like to flail his arms and I dont care for the bubble headed bleach blond on his arm either.

    October 5, 2012 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  15. Hillcrester

    Lehrer did a good job, posing broad issues and allowing the candidates free rein to address them. It was not his assignment to ask narrow, often insignificant questions that fascinate partisans from either side who aggressively taunt and insult in comments here but that have little interest for 90% of voters.

    October 5, 2012 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  16. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Ask any bagger what the conservative solutions are, and you get unfunded wars, unfunded tax cuts, unfunded drug programs, unfunded bank bailouts, vouchers for medicare, repealing women's reproductive rights, and a near depression. Quite a record of incompetence.

    October 5, 2012 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  17. Tammy lambert chandler az

    The problem with Leher being passive was that... the candidates just argued and were kind of jabbing each other without being asked to move on to next subject, so we really didnt get a lot of information because they were left to wing it without a balance. I want Gwen Ifil

    October 5, 2012 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  18. DENNA

    I'll bet Mittens screamed like a stucl pig when the unemployment numbers came out and they had dropped. Mittens, if you weren't so busy demonzing the president, you might have read that hiring is increasing. I personally know of one person who just got hired. Heck, I'm doing better now than I was 4 years ago. Oh, and you can try to walk back that 47% crack you made, but I don't believe you for one minute. Snob!

    October 5, 2012 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  19. Ancient Texan

    Farrock- Just so you will know Obama babbled on and on like he always does and he got 5 minutes more mike time than ROmney.

    October 5, 2012 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  20. Babyboomer

    It wasn't the format that was the problem but Lehrer did lose control of the debate. Having said that, President Obama and his team were not properly prepared for an opponent with multiple personalities. Both they and the next moderator had better come prepared for which ever Mitt Romney decides to show up. Mitt, watch the movie Sybil much???

    October 5, 2012 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  21. Romney Said Let Them Eat Cake

    @myviewis and truth hurts: We all know you are one and the same. Shall we say Sybil or the Three faces of Eve. If this comment is over your head google it. Please get a job and help lower unemployment.

    October 5, 2012 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  22. Pete

    @truth hurts,its time for you to check out,of commenting here.It's evident you're delushional and politically inept,maybe just inept in life that's all, you seem that way...You're always parroting FOX and you know they don't fly on this site and Limbaugh gets your heart throbbing,so you're pretty much brain dead as well,agreed!!Much like Jim Lehrer,he was DOA on the debates as moderator and someone with some cajones should have been there to tell Romney to quit putting in his two cents,he spent those with Kennedy years ago,remember your multiple choice candidate,Massachusetts does and Ted mopped the stage with him that night!!So will President Obama at this next debate,he has his number now and won't be as polite,so don't be surprised if Romney caves like he did in the primaries,TRUTH DOES HURT DOESN'T IT!!!

    October 5, 2012 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  23. Jean2

    Given Leher did not ask the questions that I am interested in on domestic issues, Romny just took over and started a slugfest, and A PROFORMANCE OF TALKINGT POINTS THAT HE NEEDS TO WIN, and many praised him.

    October 5, 2012 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  24. T'sah From Virginia

    Bin Laden is DEAD – GM is Alive – and Unemployment is DOWN; under 8% – What now RobMe and your sidekick Boy Lyan!!!!

    Obama/Biden 2012 – The Only Trusted Way Forward!!

    October 5, 2012 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
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