CNN anchor Candy Crowley spoke candidly about her role as the moderator of the second presidential debate during a panel discussion at the Newseum on Tuesday night and defended her fact-checking moment during the 90-minute exchange between President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Crowley — who cut into a fiery exchange between Romney and Obama in an attempt to clarify whether Obama called the attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya an “act of terror” — said she was merely trying to keep the discussion moving forward in order to give more audience members at the town hall-style debate a chance to get a question in.
“I was trying to move things on,” Crowley said.
She added that she also tried to move on to Romney’s larger point about the confusion surrounding the attack after it occurred, but the audience’s clapping drowned out the end of her comment.
“In all the clapping, people missed the totality of what was going on,” Crowley said.
The panel discussion also featured “PBS NewsHour” correspondents Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff and was hosted jointly by the Bipartisan Policy Center and the Newseum.
The three veteran political journalists talked about the difficulties of being a debate moderator, including the pressure to ask the right questions, get honest answers from the candidates and keep the debate moving while following the rules set out by the candidates and the Committee on Presidential Debates.
“If a candidate comes to the debate with every intention of ignoring the rules they agree to, there’s very little a moderator can do but steamroll it,” Ifill said.
Woodruff, who moderated the 1988 vice presidential debate between Sens. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and Dan Quayle (R-Ind.), said being a moderator is one of the hardest jobs she’s ever had.
“The moderator is there to bring the candidates out on important issues,” Woodruff said. “It’s to give the candidates a chance to speak up themselves and know when it’s appropriate to probe when you feel they’re not answering the question.”
Crowley, who said she doesn’t regret her fact-check moment, also spoke about the fear she had before the debate.
“The tension leading up to it is so awful,” Crowley said. “I felt like I was pregnant for six weeks because every night I woke up and I was nauseous. ... [But] once I got out there I thought, “Oh, wow. This is cool!”
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