Tough reviews for Jim Lehrer as debate moderator

Associated Press
Moderator Jim Lehrer looks over his notes before the first presidential debate at the University of Denver, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, in Denver. (AP Photo/Pool-Michael Reynolds)
.

View gallery

NEW YORK (AP) — Jim Lehrer may be regretting his decision to come out of semi-retirement and moderate his 12th presidential debate.

The veteran PBS anchor drew caustic social media reviews for his performance on Wednesday, with critics saying he failed to keep control of the campaign's first direct exchange between President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney. The candidates talked over Lehrer's attempts to keep them to time limitations, and his open-ended questions frequently lacked sharpness.

The tough assessments crossed party lines: Republican commentator Laura Ingraham wrote on Twitter that Lehrer seemed "a bit overwhelmed." Comic and Democratic activist Bill Maher bluntly tweeted that "Lehrer sucked."

It's not the night Lehrer would have expected. The 78-year-old moderated 11 presidential debates between 1988 and 2008, and after writing a book last year about his experiences, Lehrer said he was through. But he was persuaded to come back Wednesday to handle the long-awaited contest between Romney and Obama.

Romney, aggressive from the outset, beat back some of Lehrer's attempts to bring structure to the debate. At one point, when Lehrer tried to ask Romney a question, the Republican cut him off by saying of the president, "Everything he said about my tax plan was inaccurate." Then he continued to outline his argument.

Lehrer tried to end the first segment of the debate, hoping to move on to another topic, but Romney stopped him.

"I get the last word of this segment," Romney cut in.

Later, when Lehrer tried to cut off an Obama answer by saying the president's two minutes were up, Obama said he "had five seconds before you interrupted me." The president proceeded to speak for 30 more seconds.

Some of Lehrer's questions were open-ended, encouraging candidates to wander off and make their own points. He asked the candidates to explain the difference between them on ways to cut the federal deficit. He also asked Romney, "Would you have a question you'd like to ask the president about what he just said?"

Some of the commentary on Twitter compared Lehrer to a substitute teacher who had lost control of a classroom. "I'm waiting for one of them to throw a spitball at the teacher ... I mean Jim Lehrer," tweeted Sherri Shepherd of ABC's "The View."

"Regardless of who is winning this debate, Jim Lehrer is losing," tweeted Dan Abrams of ABC News, adding that Obama was "not honest" when he said that Lehrer had done a good job.

Veteran political writer Michael Tomasky of The Daily Best wrote: "Definitely Lehrer's last debate."

Conservative talk show host Dana Loesch tweeted at one point that "Romney just ran right over Lehrer."

Democrats weren't pleased about with Lehrer either. Stephanie Cutter, Obama's deputy campaign manager, told CNN that "I wondered if we needed a moderator since we had Mitt Romney." On MSNBC, commentator Rachel Maddow said that Romney "spent much of the night battling not just President Obama, but also the moderator of the debate, Jim Lehrer. And Mr. Romney won every exchange."

The Huffington Post also tweeted: "Mitt Romney and Barack Obama moderated this debate. Where was Jim Lehrer?"

To add insult to injury, Romney during the debate promised to cut off federal subsidies to PBS, even though he said, "I love PBS, I love Big Bird. I like you, too, Jim."

View Comments (927)

Recommended for You

  • Police officer shot after responding to wrong home

    ATLANTA (AP) — A police officer was shot and critically wounded Monday when he responded to a call of a suspicious person and showed up at the wrong house, authorities said.

    Associated Press
  • Man sentenced to life with no parole walks free in Missouri

    JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A man sentenced to life in prison without parole on a marijuana-related charge walked out of a Missouri prison a free man on Tuesday, after spending two decades behind bars.

    Associated Press
  • Woman Becoming Nun Needs Friend's Interest, Not Concern

    DEAR ABBY: I was best friends with "Joanne" after we met in middle school. She comes from a conservative Christian family and has three successful siblings. This has made her quirky, media-driven pursuits and city life a disappointment to her family. When we were teens and she learned that I was a…

    Dear Abby
  • Video of Israeli soldier arresting boy becomes latest in war of perception

    A soldier pins a boy down and is assaulted by his family: The scene might have gone unnoticed if not for footage that has turned it into another weapon in the Israel-Palestinian war of perception. Palestinians see it as proof of Israel's abuses in the occupied West Bank, while many Israelis say the…

    AFP
  • View

    Kentucky county clerk refuses to issue same-sex marriage licenses (26 photos)

    Gay couples in a Kentucky county are expected at the courthouse door Tuesday morning after the Supreme Court ruled against a defiant clerk who has refused to hand out marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The Supreme Court ruled against the county clerk who refused to issue gay marriage licenses,…

    Yahoo News
  • Sheriff: Suspect kills mother, stepfather, grandmother

    Outfitted in camouflage and armed with a high-powered rifle and 100 rounds of ammunition, Robert Seth Denton fatally shot his mother, stepfather and grandmother while six children witnessed the carnage in the family's double-wide mobile home in eastern Tennessee, a sheriff said Monday.

    Associated Press
  • This versatile 15-in-1 Travel Jacket is Kickstarter’s most funded piece of clothing at $7.2M

    Remember the MacGyver Travel Jacket that has 15 compartments that each have their own designated functions? It turns out that so many people loved the idea of having such a “smart” jacket that the project became the most funded piece of clothing in Kickstarter history, topping $7.2 million in…

    BGR News
  • World markets drop after bleak Chinese industry report

    NEW YORK (AP) — More signs of weakness in China's economy are sending global stock markets sharply lower.

    Associated Press12 mins ago
  • Women are not getting treated for menopausal symptoms

    By Roxanne Nelson (Reuters Health) - Many women with severe menopausal symptoms are not being treated for them even though safe, effective remedies are available, a study from Australia suggests. The findings may be applicable to other countries, too, according to senior author Dr. Susan R. Davis…

    Reuters
  • Daughter Deep In Debt Needs Counseling, Not More Money

    DEAR ABBY: Three years ago I gave my adult daughter, married with a child, more than $16,000 to help pay off her debts because she couldn't pay her bills. She and her husband maintain separate accounts, which I find odd. He pays certain expenses; she pays others. Now I find she's deep in debt again…

    Dear Abby
  • Investigators: Arizona woman acknowledges drowning twin sons

    PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona woman told investigators that she drowned her 2-year-old twin sons and tried to kill her 3-year-old stepbrother in the same way because she didn't want them to live with the difficulties she faces.

    Associated Press
  • Boko Haram killers on horseback massacre nearly 80 in NE Nigeria

    Suspected Boko Haram gunmen on horseback shot dead nearly 80 people in attacks on three villages in Nigeria's restive northeast at the weekend, a vigilante and residents told AFP on Monday. Babakura Kolo, a vigilante fighting Boko Haram, said 68 people were killed in the attack on Baanu village in…

    AFP
  • View

    The back alleys of one of America’s most dangerous cities (31 photos)

    High-tech policing and a renewed focus on community-officer partnerships are helping to bring calm to Camden, N.J., but it hasn’t been a cure-all. The impoverished town of 77,000 is still the most violent and crime-plagued city in the Garden State. A local policeman recently took Yahoo News…

    Yahoo News
  • Missouri man faces execution for raping, killing 15-year-old

    ST. LOUIS (AP) — An inmate scheduled to be executed Tuesday for killing a 15-year-old Missouri girl has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt his punishment, saying the death penalty is unconstitutional.

    Associated Press
  • Big guns in east Ukraine fall silent, two more die from wounds in Kiev protests

    Sporadic shelling and shooting, which each side has blamed on the other, had ensured a steadily mounting death toll despite the ceasefire called as part of a peace plan worked out in Minsk, Belarus, in February. More than 6,500 people have been killed since a separatist rebellion erupted there in…

    Reuters
  • World markets extend losses as China falters again

    Global stock markets plunged further on Tuesday as more gloomy evidence emerged of China's economic slowdown, leading to heavy sell-offs in Asia and Europe.

    AFP
  • With help, small island states ditch diesel for cheaper, cleaner energy

    By Megan Rowling BARCELONA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - After oil prices hit a record high in July 2008, the tiny Pacific nation of the Marshall Islands was forced to declare an economic emergency since around 90 percent of its energy needs were met by imported petroleum products. The fuel price…

    Reuters