(Huffington Post) Jim Lehrer said Monday that he accomplished precisely what he wanted to while moderating the first presidential debate: get Mitt Romney and Barack Obama talking to each other.
The former PBS anchor said last week’s confrontation, viewed by 67 million people, will be remembered as a watershed moment because it was a real debate instead of simultaneous interviews of the candidates.
He took some heavy criticism on social media for his light hand, letting the candidates talk and generally asking open-ended questions designed to encourage them to explore differences.
It was a new format approved over the summer by the Commission on Presidential Debates. Lehrer said the differences were not explained well to the public in advance. The commission issued a statement Friday backing Lehrer.
“I may be seeing something that’s not there, but I can’t imagine emerging from this experience – I’m talking about myself – with any permanent scars,” said Lehrer, who has moderated 12 presidential debates since 1988. “I’m very upbeat about it, and I don’t have any second thoughts.”
Lehrer planned to divide Wednesday’s debate into 15-minute sections divided by topic areas. But that quickly went off the rails.
“The first few times I said `let’s move on’ and they wanted to keep talking, the inclination of course is to stop them so I could cover all the subjects I wanted to cover,” he said. “But I’m sitting there thinking, `Wait a minute, they’re talking to each other, leave `em alone.’ So I backed off.”
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