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’

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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