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Jim Lehrer Blasts Critics of How He Moderated the First Presidential Debate Associated Press

Jim Lehrer, 82, the longtime newsman who moderated the first presidental debate between Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama, says "he was surprised to get criticism from political pros and fellow journalists, people he said should have seen what he was trying to accomplish," writes the TV writer for the Associated Press, David Bauder.

According to the story, Lehrer, the former news anchor for "PBS NewsHour," "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. ... 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."

Notes the AP story, "Among the critics [of the way Lehrer handled his moderating chores] were Dan Abrams of ABC News, Michael Tomasky of The Daily Beast and Rachel Maddow of MSNBC. 

Upon hearing some of the criticism Lehrer told the AP, "I was thinking, 'Weren't you paying attention to what was happening before your very eyes?'"

The article adds: "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. ... It would have been different if they were talking about tiddlywinks or baseball, their favorite color or something like that. [But] they were talking about the things that really matter.'"