PBS’s Jim Lehrer is still taking a great deal of heat over his performance as moderator of Wednesday’s presidential debate, but he’s not letting it bother him.
Lehrer told Politico his approach at the debate: "The moderator should be seen little and heard even less." http://t.co/KKmmWGYV
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) October 5, 2012
His critics were frustrated that he didn’t take a more aggressive approach to moderating, but Lehrer believes that he did exactly what he was there to do:
“Based on what the goal was, I saw it as successful,” Lehrer told POLITICO. “I’ve always said this and finally I had a chance to demonstrate it: The moderator should be seen little and heard even less. It is up to the candidates to ask the follow-up questions and challenge one another.”
“I don’t consider that being passive, I consider it being effective,” he said. “It’s not my job to control the conversation. If the candidates gave me resistance, and I let them talk, to me that’s being an active moderator, not a passive moderator.”
“The goal of the new format was to have the candidates talk directly to one another, in an extensive way, about things that matter,” he said. “One of the problems is that everybody is used to the old-fashioned debate system, which is very controlled, and where the moderator plays a more active role. But from the very beginning, everybody has been saying that what we really want is to have a real debate, not to have a moderator conducting a pseudo interview.”
Lehrer told Politico that he actually prefers the new format and believes that his muted performance did the candidates more justice than the old system would have.
Jim Lehrer is your Zen moderator. He does by not doing.
— Ryan Teague Beckwith (@ryanbeckwith) October 5, 2012
PBS’s CEO Paula Kerger, however, wasn’t in any rush to defend Lehrer:
PBS CEO refuses to defend Lehrer from suggestion he's too white to moderate debates http://t.co/HbPi1uXM
— Joel Gehrke (@Joelmentum) October 5, 2012
— David Freddoso (@freddoso) October 5, 2012
“It was a very complicated debate structure, and you saw that I think in the debate last night,” Kerger said yesterday on CNN when asked to evaluate Lehrer.
CNN’s Carol Costello then asked whether Lehrer should have had the job in the first place. “There was criticism when Jim Lehrer was initially named to be a moderator. People said: ‘oh, another white guy; he’s too old to be doing this; we live in a new world — we don’t need an old-fashioned journalist doing these things any longer.’”
Kerger let that slide. “Again, I think that it was a complicated structure for the debate,” she said.
Shorter PBS: It’s complicated. No worries for Lehrer, though. He likely won’t have to deal with “complicated debate structures” anymore — he’s not interested in putting on his moderator tie again.