PBS journalist Jim Lehrer chastised CNN's Candy Crowley for the assistance she provided Barack Obama during his presidential debate with Mitt Romney. Lehrer appeared at the Clinton School of Public Service on November 13 and critiqued, "As a general premise, I believe debate moderators are not there as fact-checkers...They are there to facilitate the exchange between the candidates."
Washington Examiner columnist Paul Bedard highlighted the "rebuke" of Crowley. Describing the role of a presidential moderator, Lehrer insisted, "You have to put a different cloak on, over your mind and your mouth and everything else. When you moderate something, you are a moderator, you are not functioning in a journalistic capacity." During her October 16 debate, Crowley famously– and incorrectly– backed up Obama's claim that he had referred to the attack in Libya as a terrorist act.
Lehrer put forward his contention that the voter has the ultimate responsibility to "fact check," not the moderator:
JIM LEHRER: If I jumped in every time I wanted to clarify something, it would have stopped, it would have stopped what the whole point of it was...And I take the view that those four 90 minutes are very– or three 90 minutes, essentially, for the presidential debate, those three things are– those events are very important, but they're not the whole campaign for God's sake! And the voter has to do a little work on his or her own as well. And you hear something, go back and check it yourself.
Lehrer moderated the October 3 debate. Many conservatives applauded the journalist for keeping his opinions to himself. Lehrer admitted this can be difficult: "And that is difficult for professional journalists to come to grips with. Because it's a journalists's function to hop in there and say, 'Hey, wait a minute.'"