Crowley on live fact-checking at debate: ‘I wasn’t trying to get them to clap’

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Candy Crowley told Soledad O’Brien about the two moments when Tuesday’s debate audience clapped: In both instances, after Crowley attempted some live fact-checking. From CNN’s transcript:

Crowley: Well, I knew that the president has said act of terror, because this has kind of come up before, and also I heard him that day. And what Mitt Romney was going for, and I think where he tripped himself up was that he picked that one wrong fact. The president did call it or refer to it in some ways an act of terror, and so it felt as though – and the president kept looking at me going, you know, and I thought, well, I did know then, I said, you know, he did call it an act of terror. That’s what caused the applause.

O’Brien: But then this side over here –

Crowley: Right. On this side over here, which is clearly the –

O’Brien: Then you fact-checked again.

Crowley: And then I said, but you are correct that they didn’t know for a couple of weeks that it wasn’t related to the tape and there was no riot outside the consulate, so – and that side of the room clapped.

Crowley: I wasn’t trying to get them to clap, I was trying to sort of – you know, bring some kind of clarity to the conversation.

Speaking with Anderson Cooper, Crowley also said Romney was “right in the main” but “picked the wrong word,” a fact that gave some Romney supporters conniptions.

Reuters’ Samuel P. Jacobs collected some of their thoughts: “Candy was wrong, and Candy had no business doing that, and Candy didn’t even keep the (candidates’ speaking) time right” (John Sununu); “At different times tonight, she in fact got into the game, and she wasn’t on the sidelines” (Ron Kaufman). Counterpoint: “I think Candy was dandy” (Eric Fehrnstrom).

Associated Press TV writer David Bauder points out that Crowley lobbed a few follow-ups to the questions posed by the debate’s town-hall participants. Before the debate, the Romney and Obama campaigns objected to the follow-ups, saying their agreement with each other didn’t allow the moderator to pounce on their answers. Crowley said she would do it anyway.

“What about long-term unemployed?” she asked following the candidates’ reply to the first question, from a college student who wondered if he would find a job after graduating.

She also tried to steer the candidates back to the subject when the answer appeared to be wandering, such as when Romney discussed American guns found in Mexico after being asked about an assault rifle ban.

Jeff Bercovici says Crowley’s disregard for the memo made for a great debate. By questioning each other:

On-the-spot fact-checking was clearly outside the purview of moderator as set forth by the CPD’s agreement with the candidates. Who cares? Thanks to her display of backbone, Crowley can say she moderated the liveliest presidential debate most Americans will be able to remember. Voters ought to thank her.

Erik Wemple notes, Romney and Obama violated the agreement themselves.

Related: Teen who petitioned for female debate moderator says of Crowley’s performance, ‘No one — man or woman — could have done it better’

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  • Anonymous

    Also, people need to get their collective heads out of the sand and realize that these debates are suppose to be between the two designated politicians.

    And most are aware that politicians will often lie, cheat and steal when it benefits their agenda! Get real! A totally honest politician would mess up the whole mix!

    Furthermore, a fact-checking “moderator” would be totally out of place.

  • Anonymous

    Neither Robert’s Rules of Order nor the agreed upon former structure approved by the candidates’ respective handlers, make provisions for a “moderator” who also acts as fact checker.

    So if the so-called “moderator” interjects her personal observation(s) onto the floor of the debat, she becomes a third party.

    BTW – advance a bit of attribution into your arguments and they be more creditable than your personal political opinion.

  • Anonymous

    she was NOT a third party. she was the moderator just like the moderators of all these debates. however, some lies are so egregious that a moderator should NOT let them pass without correction. that’s precisely what she did.

  • Anonymous

    Only in a formal debate and when the “moderator” becomes the third-party to what otherwise is a two-man-spin club discussion.

  • Anonymous

    Not by definition and according to the rules of parliamentary procedure…

  • Anonymous

    Who made Candy the third-party in this debate?

  • Anonymous

    Obviously some wish to make the moderator an entity that is involved in a debate for the purpose of “fact checking” and “corrections” – and not just a regulator of time and issue distribution.

    Such thinking interjects a third-party bias into a formal debate (as was recently seen) which makes the forum deviate from what Merriam-Webster says should be: a : the formal discussion of a motion before a deliberative body according to the rules of parliamentary procedure. b : a regulated discussion of a proposition between two matched sides …

    Obviously, those who care to differ, apparently also find difficulty in playing by the rules. But that’s to be expected these days with so-called “journalists” and the like.

  • Anonymous

    ms. crowley would have been negligent — both professionally and morally — to let mutt get away with a blatant lie about obama supposedly not using the word “terrorism” (when he did). would someone please explain to me exactly WHY mutt is trying to make such a big deal out of this, even if he were right (which he is not)?

    maybe he just figured ms. crowley would be so timid that she would cower to him, that he simply thought he could get away with the lie. i don’t know. mutt, however, did slip into a response (in passing) something he says virtually every day, and that is his false claim that obama apologized for the u.s. overseas, when every fact-check group in existence says that is a lie, too.

  • Anonymous

    Utter nonsense. Crowley, like any of the moderators is in fact “part” of the situation. How the moderator chooses to interpret that role is very much up to their sense of what it needs to be. Journalists are always part of the story/situation they’re covering. Without the lights/camera/ notebook, the behavior of the people involved would be at least moderately different: they’re not being observed or watched. One only has to look at the aftemath of events covered by the media when “Joe” or Susie Person on the Street is interviewed. Or the instant “shrines” that pop up after some accident/shooting/ death. People in today’s media environment know how to play, or try to play to “journalists”…of which there are precious few, especially in the corporate media, which includes PBS.

  • Paul Steinle

    Since when is stating the known truth — the president did refer to the incident as terrorist-driven — “bias?” The stated, documented truth is bias?

  • Anonymous

    The very First Rule of creditable journalism for a so-called journalist, is to not become a part of the news event or story.

    Candy simply failed in this assignment.

    She also allowed one side of the debate almost 10% more time – about 4 minutes – than the other!

    Everyone should know that all politicians will stretch the truth, if not lie and/or avoid answering the questions posed, and that they have further been ordained with poetic license. But when the so-called “moderator” of a presidential debate becomes biased – it’s just not so much for being fair and balanced.