NEW YORK – Jim Lehrer said Monday that he accomplished precisely what he wanted to while moderating the first presidential debate: get Mitt Romney and Barack Obama talking to each other.
The former PBS anchor said last weeks confrontation, viewed by 67 million people, will be remembered as a watershed moment because it was a real debate instead of simultaneous interviews of the candidates.
He took some heavy criticism on social media for his light hand, letting the candidates talk and generally asking open-ended questions designed to encourage them to explore differences.
It was a new format approved over the summer by the Commission on Presidential Debates. Lehrer said the differences were not explained well to the public in advance.
The commission issued a statement Friday backing Lehrer.
Lehrer said Monday he would have gotten much harsher criticism had he cut the candidates short.
Not only that, but I would have deserved it, he said.