* During debate, Crowley said Obama correct in Libya dispute
* Romney supporters upset by Crowley's interruptions
* Campaigns had hoped moderator would take passive role
By Samuel P. Jacobs
HEMPSTEAD, N.Y., Oct 17 As in pro football this
season, many of the noisiest complaints after political debates
have been directed not at the participants, but at the referees.
Tuesday's debate between Democratic President Barack Obama
and Republican Mitt Romney was no exception, as moderator Candy
Crowley of CNN came under fire for siding with Obama during one
of his sharpest exchanges with Romney.
In that moment, Crowley walked into the middle of a national
security controversy and contravened the wishes of both
presidential campaigns that she remain largely a spectator in
the second presidential debate.
After Romney said that it took Obama 14 days to call the
attack that killed four Americans at the U.S. consulate in
Benghazi, Libya, an act of "terror," Obama cited remarks he made
in the White House Rose Garden on Sept. 12, the day after the
attack. The president said he had mentioned terrorism in
recounting the attack.
"Get the transcript," Obama told Romney.
"He did call it an act of terror," Crowley said, siding with
On CNN after the debate, Crowley said her comment "was the
natural thing that came out of me."
Romney supporters at the debate were irate.
"Candy was wrong, and Candy had no business doing that, and
Candy didn't even keep the (candidates' speaking) time right,"
said former New Hampshire governor John Sununu, one of Romney's
most boisterous supporters.
Other Republicans chimed in with criticism of Crowley.
"At different times tonight, she in fact got into the game,
and she wasn't on the sidelines," said Ron Kaufman, a senior
adviser to Romney.
'CANDY WAS DANDY'
The jibes about Crowley's comment on Libya came after both
campaigns expressed anxiety over how active a role she would
take in the debate, which featured undecided voters asking the
candidates questions in a "town hall" format.
The idea was to allow Obama and Romney to directly address
voters' concerns and engage one another in the second of three
debates the pair will have before the Nov. 6 election.
Both sides said they feared that Crowley would take too firm
a hand, overshadowing the audience members picked to ask
A copy of the campaigns' agreement over the debate's terms
was leaked to Time magazine on Monday.
The memorandum, to which Crowley did not personally consent,
stated that the moderator would not ask follow-up questions. The
agreement did allow Crowley to select which questions, written
by the undecided voters attending the debate, would be asked.
Harsh criticism of the debate moderator followed the first
presidential debate, too.
After that debate, in Denver on Oct. 3, Obama's supporters
complained that moderator Jim Lehrer of PBS had been too passive
and was overrun by an aggressive Romney.
At one point during Tuesday's debate, Crowley appeared to
admit that she did not want to get the same treatment as Lehrer,
saying that might "get run of town" if she didn't force the two
candidates to move onto another question.
She may have had more than Lehrer's reviews in mind.
Last month, Carole Simpson, the first woman to moderate a
presidential debate in 1992, wrote in an op-ed column that her
role at a town hall forum 20 years ago was whittled down to
being "the lady with the microphone," prevented from asking
questions of her own.
Not all Romney hands saw value in Republicans leveling
attacks on the moderator.
"I don't complain about the refs," said campaign senior
adviser Eric Fehrnstrom. "I think Candy was dandy."