Jim Lehrer to critics: Bring it.
PBS’s Lehrer today insisted that he’s unfazed by the avalanche of vitriolic responses to his moderator performance at Wednesday’s presidential debate, seen by an estimated 67 million Americans.
In Lehrer’s 12th presidential at-bat, critics blasted him for being too passive, allowing President Obama and Mitt Romney to steamroll him at will. Critics also said Lehrer’s questions were vague, and that they didn’t cover a broad enough range of issues.
“Everybody is welcome to criticize my questions, or anything else I did,” Lehrer, 78, says. “I have no problem with that. I knew, going in, this was not going to be easy. What the hell. … The next debate, people will tweet, tweet, tweet all over again. That’s terrific.”
Despite being constantly interrupted and talked over, Lehrer pronounced the new debate format — featuring 15-minute, wide-open segments for the candidates to directly address each other – a success.
“The format worked,” he says. “These guys were really talking to each other. Presidential candidates had never done that before. People, including the candidates, and including me, were used to a more controlled format, with two-minute answers.
“I played a different role than in the past. I was still the moderator, but it was a different kind of debate. I understand why people were a little stunned by some it. Over time, they’ll get used to it, and realize it works.”
The downside of the open format, Lehrer acknowledges, is that it’s virtually impossible to steer the candidates in a different direction or to get them to shut up.
“I would hope the candidates themselves would do that,” says Lehrer, ever the optimist. “Certainly,