Now in Crosshairs: Debate Moderators

Social media, confrontational candidates turn up heat

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Oct 2, 2012 10:45 AM CDT

(Newser) – Jim Lehrer has been moderating presidential debates for decades, but lately, it's a lot tougher than it used to be. Candidates have started confronting not just their opponents but the moderators themselves, as Newt Gingrich showed us during the GOP primaries. And the general public can easily hammer chosen moderators even before the debates begin, thanks to social media. "It’s a rough, rough world," says Lehrer, who was furious when he was called a "safe" choice, the New York Times reports.

Lehrer is set to moderate tomorrow night; on Oct. 16, it's Candy Crowley of CNN. She makes no bones about her nervousness: "Every morning I wake up, I want to throw up thinking about it." To prepare, she writes down questions on index cards, which she keeps everywhere—even in the bathroom. As for Martha Raddatz of ABC, moderating the Oct. 11 vice-presidential debate, she avoids Twitter at all, and wakes up at night to write down questions. CBS' Bob Schieffer, who's moderating the final debate on Oct. 22, calls it a "toxic atmosphere." His weapon of choice: a giant three-ring binder full of news clippings.

Jim Lehrer stands outside the Magness Arena, site of Wednesday's presidential debate, on the campus of the University of Denver, Monday, Oct. 1, 2012.
Jim Lehrer stands outside the Magness Arena, site of Wednesday's presidential debate, on the campus of the University of Denver, Monday, Oct. 1, 2012.   (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
In this Sept. 26, 2008 file photo, PBS anchor Jim Lehrer discusses the rules of the debate with the audience at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Miss.
In this Sept. 26, 2008 file photo, PBS anchor Jim Lehrer discusses the rules of the debate with the audience at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Miss.   (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds, File)
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