Jim Lehrer Defends Debate Moderating Performance

It was Lehrer on Lehrer, when veteran PBS newsman Jim Lehrer stopped by The Brian Lehrer Show to explain the importance of presidential debates, stress the vital need for federal funding for public broadcasting and defend his own controversial moderating performance from the first Obama-Romney debate.

Lehrer was widely criticized for the way he moderated the debate, with many observers saying he didn’t do enough to challenge the candidates or control the flow of questions. He was also faulted for not bring up controversial comments the candidates made on the trail, such as Romney’s blunt discussion about the 47 percent. But Lehrer said that was intentional — he wanted the candidates to question one another.

“I was not there to do the challenging,” said Lehrer, who is also the author of Tension City: Inside the Presidential Debates. “I was there to facilitate the challenging, and if they weren't going to do that, I wasn't going to do the work for them.”

Lehrer resisted the chance to criticize President Obama’s performance — the agreed upon loser in the debate — admitting to Brian Lehrer, he was “dodging” the question.

While he believes the president’s job is to engage in foreign policy and create jobs, Lehrer noted the president can’t do any of that without the support of the American people. Debates, Lehrer said, can be a proving ground for just that.

“If you're going to be President of the United States, you better be able to stand up on your feet or sit down on your bottom and talk. And talk to the American people and talk to people who ask you questions in journalism,” Lehrer said.

Listen to Brian Lehrer's entire interview with Jim Lehrer below: