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
Now in Crosshairs: Debate Moderators
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)

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. (More presidential debate stories.)

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