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

Oct 8, 2012  •  Post A Comment

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.’"


  1. He screwed up,period.

  2. He played it exactly right. He gave both candidates enough rope to hang themselves. And one of them did exactly that.

  3. I agree with Mr. Lehrer…though they did go over time, they were talking about important issues, not wasting time. I actually enjoyed when he rolled his eyes when Romney was so rude to him.

  4. bunch of liberal media hacks are the only ones complaining. their thin skinned cry baby president was even given 5 more minutes of talking time than Romney. Substance over style all the way….and style didn’t look too good ! hooah !!!!

  5. Bill Maher, who donated $1 million to O bama, said it best:”He sucked. He looked tired, he had trouble getting his answers out,” he said. “It looks like he took my million and spent it all on weed.”

  6. Jim,
    People like Abrahms and Maddow have sacrificed all credibility to get their man re-elected. They never again will be taken seriously as journalists.
    So, when they run out of excuses for their candidates poor performance, the only thing they can do is blame the moderator or the altitude.
    I wonder if years from now they will look back and think it was worth it to turn their backs on traditional fairness and balance.

  7. No journalist is perfect. Anyone can take a shot at Jim Lehrer. The question is could you have done better?
    Cliff Abromats
    President, GC Media

  8. Jim, I believe you were right the way you handled it.
    Doug, you were also correct to bring up Bill Maher’s analogy.
    Obama did not win the debate and it had nothing to do with Jim Lehrer. Romney did his best job ever of saying more words in less time than Obama. In that time he still managed to say absolutely nothing and continued to contradict (or flip-flop) every single issue he has ever spoken about.
    The man is an empty suit of platitudes and strong sounding vague statements.
    Ask Bin Laden if Obama means what he says. Oh yeah, that’s right…..

  9. Dear Mr. Lehrer, I agree with you completely. As you have said, in Presidential debates, the goal is to bring forward the candidates’ positions. You did that beautifully! Well done, again! Your Fan, Pam Henry, Retired OETA (PBS) News Manager

  10. I can see your point, Jim.
    If I have a point of contention, it would be that I was hoping for a real debate. That hangs on you.
    In your defense, neither candidate treated you, the Moderator, with due respect. They walked all over you, ignored you and put out their preconceived, superfluous campaign fluff.
    Bottom line, the electorate got short-changed…again.
    Half way through, I stopped being angry about it. I could see what you were doing, given the circumstances.
    I applaud you for not walking out.
    Peter Bright

  11. Jim did a great job! I usually sleep through these things and I was wide awake. The candidates were snapping at each other and challenging each other. That was Obama’s problem. He is not used to being challenged and didn’t know how to respond. He should be better next time, assuming that the toadys he works with will really prep him with hard questions and challenges to his answers and positions.

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