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October 18th, 2012
04:06 PM ET

Opinion: No doubt, women should moderate more debates

Editor's note: Carole Simpson is the leader-in-residence at Emerson College’s School of Communication in Boston, where she teaches journalism and communications classes. She is the first woman or minority to be the sole moderator of a presidential debate and chronicled her 40 years as a broadcast journalist in her memoir, "Newslady."

By Carole Simpson, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Should there be any doubt now that women can handle presidential debates as well as men? That they can conduct a live television event that lasts for 90 minutes before an audience of 60 million viewers? That they can be smart, bold and professional in dealing with the men who would be president and vice president of this great nation?

No. There should be no doubt at all. CNN’s Candy Crowley and ABC’s Martha Raddatz have finally banished that old false notion that “men are better” to the grave it deserves.

Of course, after former PBS anchor Jim Lehrer lost control of the first presidential debate in Denver, Raddatz and Crowley were masterful in comparison. Lehrer, the journalist who was moderating his 12th presidential debate, at times threw up his hands in exasperation as President Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney ignored the guidelines on time limits for statements and rebuttals. The testy rivals wrested the debate away from Lehrer, and he was pretty much reduced to the role of a potted plant.

Raddatz then moderated the vice presidential debate, where she had been warned that Vice President Joe Biden might engage in some “funny stuff.” Biden found Paul Ryan funny, and he found himself funny, but under the firm hand of Raddatz, both men did as they were directed. The vice presidential debate was not only enlightening but enjoyable.

Poor Candy Crowley. She had to moderate the second debate in the town-hall format, which became the most contentious presidential matchup in recent memory. There, she was with a nervous audience of 80 undecided voters and two men who can’t stand each other. Obama and Romney could not be more different: in family history, socioeconomic upbringing, political ideology, social status and, of course, color. The only thing they have in common is Harvard Law School and nice families.

Obama blew the first debate by appearing disengaged and bored with the whole process. Romney, with an energetic and aggressive style, won.

The president was determined to change the public’s perception of him by changing his style, his answers and his enthusiasm for the second debate. Romney was ready for the Obama makeover. Crowley was ready for both of them.

I wouldn’t have traded places with her for anything. The candidates entered the arena – yes, that’s what the debate floor became - already seething, despite the plastered smiles and phony handshake.

This was supposed to be a debate dominated by questions from the undecided voters, but it quickly deteriorated into something that looked like a cockfight.

Throughout the debate, Crowley juggled so many balls in the air: listening to the producer in her ear, calling on audience members, watching the time, asking follow-up questions, paying attention to the candidates’ answers, deciding who had the next question or rebuttal.

She was doing all this with an up-close and too-personal display of male bravado. I was waiting for one of the candidates to beat his chest or jump on the other’s back. It was that nasty.

Crowley, with the utmost politeness, struggled to remain in control despite being interrupted by Romney. Did she retreat like a shy violet or burst into tears? Not her. She prevailed.

Crowley raised two sons. I have to believe that she harkened back to those days when her boys misbehaved and she had to discipline them. Now before her eyes were the president of the United States and the former governor of Massachusetts, circling each other defiantly like naughty boys. She finally said, with all the power she could muster in her voice, "If I could have you sit down, Gov. Romney.” And he did.

In 2016, the Commission on Presidential Debates should not hesitate to seek out women to be moderators. Candy Crowley and Martha Raddatz proved that the best women can stand on equal footing with the best men. Thank you, ladies.

The opinions expressed are solely those of Carole Simpson.

soundoff (56 Responses)
  1. Norwegio

    More women, less Candy. Being a moderator is not very hard, but very important. She was incompetent beyond measure.

    October 25, 2012 at 8:39 am | Report abuse |
  2. max3333444555

    the moderators all pretty much sucked. they should all be looking at how larry king moderated the third party debate.

    if the moderater is actually doing their job it shouldnt matter who they are or what gender. i dont think all women would do a bad job because of candy crowley doing a poor job.

    these kinds of articles are the worst kind of pandering bs. do we think that who moderates a debate actually impacts women in general? just like men they have far more important things to deal with on a daily basis.

    October 24, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jim Dandey

    What the hell possible difference can it make if the moderator is a woman or not? Either you're a good moderator or you're not; gender has nothing to do with it...

    October 23, 2012 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
  4. Prof David

    Yes, both women did an excellent job. But making the point at the expense of Jim Lehrer and his gender is ridiculous logic and yet another example of the gender narcissism that is weakening the strides made by the women's movement.

    October 23, 2012 at 9:00 am | Report abuse |
  5. Bill

    Candy "CREEP" Crawley's biased performance is just another blatant example of CNN's total lack of any journalistic integrity. Our democractic form of government depends on a free press with honesty, a balanced objectivity and integrity. Have you no shame?

    October 22, 2012 at 12:01 am | Report abuse |
  6. last man standing

    Candy Crowley performance as a moderator was poor and biased. It was obvious who she was carrying water for. She did no service for women or her own career. It is sad to see someone throw away what it took them a life time to build.

    October 21, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Fred Price

    Candy Crowley has ensured that Obama will be pinned on the question she bailed him out of in the next debate. Candy Crowley should be fired. This is my first and last trip to CNN website. You will go out of business. You are now journalists, but your news tells us what you want us to hear and you withhold truth from the public. You destroy your enemies. Your policies and employees have helped FOX become the dominant media. CNN is doomed to failure.

    October 20, 2012 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Pradd20

    I think Candy Crowley did an excellent job as a moderator.

    October 20, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mike

    Candy Crowley was out of her element and dishonest as a moderator. Where did she get the transcript and how did the President know that she had it? In my opinion she ganged up on Romney! The debate was fixed because she selected: the panelists; selected the questions ask questions (and the wording of them);and stopped Romney several times when he was reaching an important point. Obama knew what was coming and viewers saw, firsthand, a fix in the making. I could go on but CNN wouldn't listen anyway. They used to be the best but now they are "JOKE" Keep up your work and CNN will be a casualty of its own prejudice and go the way of "NEWSWEEK"

    October 20, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Tom1940

    As compared to? It appears to me that gender had little to do with being a moderator. When political ideology trumps professional news "person" and gets in the way, then the "person" should not be a moderator. Fairness, staying out of the way, but clarifying, timekeeping (fairly distributing time equally), and not entering the debate on one side or the other should be paramount. Candy Crowley did none of the above, except interject herself into, what I believe, was a crucial time in Mitt Romney making the point that the President was being "disingenuous", and misleading the electorate. Not a good night for Ms. Crowley, in spite of what the CNN Executives say.

    October 20, 2012 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
  11. Thomas Varughis

    Candy is a very good anchor, this time she was frusturated. CNN got more money from Obama.You know that Obama getting all the support from the gay people. In 20 years American gay population increases 10 times than it now. So Obamas victory is going to be a Sodom victory.

    October 20, 2012 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
  12. Melanie

    Candy Crowley has shown America just how the press covers up for Mr Obama. Crowley helped Obama with his Libya lie and it has to make you wonder just how many lies she tells on CNN. If anything she has proven women can't moderate the debate. She was given a set of rules and she ignored them. Why did she lie for the president? Women had 1 step forward with her being allowed to do the debate, but after went went 6 steps back because of this ignorant woman. Don't listen to what she says, watch what she does. She is obviously a liar and not a fair journalist

    October 20, 2012 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |
  13. newtbek

    Since Kennedy n Nixon, America has tried many types of modertors. Young, old, eduated, not so educated, the local community, old news reporters,young new reporter, women news reporters, men news reporters and many other styled moderators. Maybe its time for "Mr. ED: the talking horse, at least he will tell the candidate when he hears and smells "malarkey"... HEY WILBUR, What's that on your shoe?...

    October 20, 2012 at 7:18 am | Report abuse |
  14. Greg Kells

    You've got to be kidding me. Candy Crowley's disastrous job moderating the last debate is supposed to be evidence that women should moderate more debates. Aside from that women have moderated two of the three debates so far in this campaign, and not very well either time. In their defense Lehrer wasn't spectacular, but at least he didn't interject his own opinions and biases as blatantly as Crowley.

    October 19, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
  15. vtrn33

    It was unbelievable that the moderator felt compelled to take part in the discussion during the debate, isn't it the job of the moderator to remain neutral? She should of not been involved in the discussion at all. I hope she doesn't consider herself a good journalist and fair with member's from both sides of the isle? I wouldn't ever trust her as far as I could throw her, which wouldn't be far but still I wanted to make a point.

    October 19, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
  16. DaveUSA

    Yeah, let's have more women who are biased and have no grip on reality or issues moderate. That is a wonderful idea to write about by a WOMAN!

    October 19, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  17. jorp

    epic fail. You get 1 crack at this and she put her thumb on the scale. Never see her in another debate.

    October 19, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  18. John

    I believe Ms Crowley did the following:

    1. Selected or helped select question that favored Obama.
    2. Interrupted both candidates but 3 times as much for Romney.
    3. Broke her agreement on conducting the debate without moderator input or influence.
    4. Presented her opinion as fact, thereby favoring Obama, her candidate.
    5. Allowed Obama about 8% more time than Romney.
    6. Allowed both, but especially Obama to respond to important questions without answering them.
    7. Permitted almost unfettered interruptions of Romney by Obama, though Romney later responded in kind.

    In the end, Ms Crowley could not hide her politics, nor those of CNN. The later commentary by Wolf Blitzer only underscored the bias of CNN and put the lie to prior claims of impartial journalism. I had always thought Crowley was CNN's most impartial commentator/reporter amogst the likes of Blitzer, Obrien, Cooper, Burnett, Morgan, et al. I now believe she was only better at camoflage.

    October 19, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hiker KJH

      It appears by these responses that CNN and Candy Crowley have lost about 100% of their credibility and it has to hurt in all areas not just politics! I almost never watch CNN but I did after the first presidential debate and it was almost fair and balanced as they were all licking their wounds. You should demote Cany Crowley and probably Carol Simple also, Crowley should be demoted publicly and you should have Fox News there to try and get some honesty in the story. I hope the debate panel never gives the Clinton News Network another opportunity to moderate a presidenial or vice presidential debate in m lifetime! Shame on you!

      October 20, 2012 at 6:40 am | Report abuse |
  19. Paul

    i think Candy can be a successful moderator for future debates. She acknowledged that she veered off course into that place where journalist should not go. Unforutnately, she became the story. What is more confounding is that a large part of journalistic society has spent huge amounts of time trying to make it something other than what it was. That is the problem of "spin" and "fact checking" and all of the other catch-phrases that blissfully ingnore what was said in favor of what they want it to mean.

    October 19, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fred Price

      Are you kidding? You are blind and deaf

      October 20, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Randy

    are you kidding me. This has to be a joke. Candy was the worst ever!

    October 19, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  21. como1

    2 of the 3 campaign debates have been moderated by women. How many do you want women to moderate all of them?

    October 19, 2012 at 11:47 am | Report abuse |
  22. CNN wakeup

    What debate was CNN watching this was the worst moderator ever regardless of who you want to vote for

    October 19, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      Crowley was TERRIBLE. Not only did she cut one candidate off more than the other, but she LIED (or misunderstood a quote). She should never moderate again.

      I'm OK if women moderate debates, but gender doesn't need to be a qualifier. The first debate was the only one where the moderator wasn't trying to get too involved and allowed the candidates to talk.

      October 19, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  23. gtsmoker

    A moderator SHOULD be a potted plant, they are not running for office and I am not interest in their opinions or a botched attempt at instant "fact checking" which no one can accurately do in real time as evidenced by Candy Crowly.

    October 19, 2012 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
  24. Not so sure

    You forgot to mention Crowley's siding with one side, then to even things up, siding with the other.

    She lost control of herself. She became a participant, trying to affect the outcome.

    October 19, 2012 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  25. anoel2005

    "Just how badly did CNN's Candy Crowley destroy her first (and hopefully last) attempt as a presidential debate moderator? More than 65 million people saw that she is to debate moderation as CNN is to "news."

    "Barack Obama made a fatal mistake when he lied, claiming he'd labeled the Libya attack as an act of terrorism. The look on Romney's face said it all: Mr. President, here comes checkmate."

    "Then Crowley leapt to Obama's defense, declared a lie a truth, changed the subject, and Obama was free."

    Brent Bozell, 10/19/2012, Yahoo news

    October 19, 2012 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Not so sure

      Obama did make reference to "acts of terror" in his rose garden press release, the day after the attack on the consulate.

      October 19, 2012 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
      • anoel2005

        Obama ( in his U.N. speech) , Jay Carney ,Susan Rice and even Hillary Clinton said it was related to the anti Islamic movie and this went on for 2 weeks. That's election year politics. Obama lies and he shouldn't get away with it.

        October 19, 2012 at 11:35 am | Report abuse |
      • Randy

        Obama said acts of terror AFTER talking about the New York 9/11 attack, unless he meant thousands of people in Libya were killed!!!

        October 19, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
      • Greg Kells

        He absolutely did NOT refer to the attack in Benghazi as an act of terror. He used that term one time, and it was in reference to the 9/11/01 attacks. He called Benghazi an unjustified act of senseless violence, and attributed it to religious intolerance. So no, he did NOT call the attack an act of terrorism the day after it happened. He pushed the official story that it was a protest turned riot, that got out of control. Despite the fact that there was video evidence to the contrary that they had real time access to. Sorry, but Obama lied and Candy stepped in and backed it up. It was unprofessional on her part, and deceitful on his.

        October 19, 2012 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
      • Fred Price

        It was not in reference to Libya. He was talking about general acts of terror. Wake up. He lied and Candy covered it up. She should be fired.

        October 20, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      If you had paid attention, President Obama said that he was ready to continue the conversation.

      October 19, 2012 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
      • Matt

        No he didn't. When Crowley said, "let's move on", he jumped on it as quickly as possible.

        Obama was awful during the second debate, but was held up several times by Crowley. She and CNN have become embarrassments to unbiased journalism.

        October 19, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  26. Harry

    First Romney need to learn to finish his talking within his given allotted and agreed time limit.If he has lacking this manners then moderator has to show him his limit and confront for time limit and show him his chair back to occupy.
    Second,,if Romney learn manners and respect to moderator and NOT to interfere to his opponent in his talking time and in between his statements then he will never feel that his time was shorter then his opponent.
    So in short Romney need to be civil rather then rude and arrogant in presidential debate.Because this is not his Bain capital corporate office meeting where he can be rude and trashy to command over others.
    Obama can show him eyes to get back to ground.So Candy did her Duty to get this arrogant corporate crook and shown him ground to stand .

    October 19, 2012 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
    • For Freedom

      Unless i was watching a different debate then you Obama was acting in the same manner. He was just as childish, rude and disrespectful. Keep in mind that Candy was there to moderate, not be a fact checker. If she was there to be a fact checker then why didn't she call out Obama on his Oil statement? that was a straight out lie about Oil production not being cut on public lands under his administration and he knows it. But apparently Candy didn't or she didn't want to say anything.

      October 19, 2012 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Ed R

      Harry: You're are so off base that you look silly. Check the candidate's expenditure of time. It was Obama (both debates) who used more time. In all three debates, it was the Republican candidate who was interrupted more frequently by the moderator – frequently in mid-sentence. If anyone needs chastisement for poor performance, it is your soon-to-be ex-president, who tried unsuccessfully to channel Joe Biden's 'sneer and jeer' behavior. Moderator Crowley was blatantly biased. We all saw her obvious attempts to help Obama. Open your eyes to the real world for a change.

      October 19, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fred Price

      What planet do you live on?

      October 20, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Report abuse |
  27. Dave

    I have no problem with men or women running the debates. What I have a problem with is when one party is given more time in every debate, and when the moderator interrupts the GOP candidates, changes the subject when it isn't going the democrats way, and when a moderator intervenes but does not convey the entire situation.

    October 19, 2012 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
  28. For Freedom

    Candy was wrong to interrupt with false facts. even the CNN article called "The Truth About what Candy Crowley said" is blatantly trying to re-write history and CYA. I don't care whether there is a male or female moderator but we cannot have news people in that position. The news industry has become way to biased and it leans heavily towards the Liberal side which means the American people do not get all the information. A good example is welfare being up 33% since Obama took office. Why isn't CNN reporting this?

    October 19, 2012 at 8:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Jose M. Rivera

      Everybody who does not agree with Norquist, Rush, Hannity, Fox, Paul Ryan, tea partiers, the Koches and you is biased.

      October 19, 2012 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
      • For Freedom

        Ridicules comment. in your attempt to discredit my statement you entirely missed the point. Neutrality is required at ALL debates. It has now been proven with the last debate that reporters enter the arena with their own preconceptions and agendas.

        October 19, 2012 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
      • Fred Price

        Wake up . The names you mentioned became popular because for so long the liberals controlled all the media such as CNN, MSNBC, CBS, NBC, ABC, Most Newspapers and you are complaining because Fox and talk radio came on the scene to straighten out the lies the liberals have been telling us.

        October 20, 2012 at 9:34 pm | Report abuse |
  29. Lori

    Are you serious? Poor Candy Crowley? Interrupting Mitt Romney? Trying to tell us what we saw does not change what we saw... The greatest interruption of the night came from Obama prompting her to, "get the transcript" and her obliging.

    This article is a terrible attempt at apologetics for what really should be an apology.

    October 19, 2012 at 7:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Traci

      His President Obama. Candy listen to the commander. Of the U.S. if your CEO tell you to do something you will do it. Many Americans just don't respect the President Obama. If Romney wins I hope you and who ever votes for him to be prepared for disaster. The bottom line CEO"S don't care about people. They only care about the bottom line. How often does your CEO ask you how are you doing?. CEO's will cut you job for his million dollar bonus. If your a business owner you care about generating revenue and cutting cost even cutting jobs if you have to. All I'm saying is be careful for what you wish for the grass is not always greener on the other side.

      October 19, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
      • Randy

        Are you referring to the stories about the left threatening Romney's life or the disaster of blacks threatened to riot. pick one because Obama is about to retire by vote!!!

        October 19, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
      • Randy

        And answer me this: if your right and ceo's are only interested in the bottom line then what do you think will happen when the rich are taxed more on their business just what do you think that ceo will do hire more people..... are you stupid or just ignorant.

        October 19, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
      • Fred Price

        Businesses are created to make money. In the process, many are hired and make money. Taxes are paid. If businesses do not make money, then everyone, including YOU will be poorer.

        October 20, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Randy

      If you don't have facts you say wahhh real smart are you ha ha

      October 19, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Mark

    Claudia – you've done a great job representing how ill-educated and simply ignorant most people on the right are. Congratulations.

    October 19, 2012 at 6:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Randy

      And were so grateful for all your help in labeling us. Keep that to yourself or look in a mirror.

      October 19, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fred Price

      I am on the right and I forgot more than you know.

      October 20, 2012 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
  31. singlemom

    Women or Men, as long as they keep their thoughts, mouth and bias SHUT, then no problem. CNN should be ashamed of the latest moderator, who not only took sides in the debate but also started another debate with a participant and with the american people at large.

    October 19, 2012 at 3:04 am | Report abuse |
  32. claudia

    biased I should say

    October 18, 2012 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |
  33. claudia

    that woman makes vomit!!!! she was soooooooooooo bias and partial during the debate, butwhat else we can expect from comunists???

    October 18, 2012 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |