Moderator's Libya fact check draws criticism from the right

Following in the footsteps of Jim Lehrer, CNN's Candy Crowley, who moderated the second presidential debate Tuesday night, has come under fire from conservatives for her performance.

The moment in question came during an exchange on President Barack Obama's handling of the killings of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, in Benghazi last month.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney asserted that Obama waited 14 days to call the killings the result of terrorism. Obama said he indeed called it an act of terrorism in his remarks from the Rose Garden at the White House the day after the attacks.

"He did in fact, sir. So let me call it an act of terrorism," Crowley said to Romney, urging both candidates to move on.

While it is usually commonplace for conservative pundits to accuse journalists of liberal bias (Rush Limbaugh called Crowley's performance "an act of journalistic terror"), it is somewhat rare to see so many Republican politicians, including vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, accusing a debate moderator of either being biased or misleading.

A top Republican official anonymously told Politico that Crowley overstepped her bounds.

“She made a mistake on process, and she made a mistake on substance,” the adviser said. “She should never have injected herself. It was a major screw up for a moderator.”

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, told Crowley on CNN the next day that she did too much.

"When you have two candidates disagreeing, it's not the role of the moderator to say, 'Mr. President, you're right' or 'Gov. Romney, you're right,'" Chaffetz said.

Obama did refer to "acts of terror" in his Rose Garden address, though there is some question whether the president was actually referring to the assassinations.

"No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this nation, alter that character or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for,” Obama said in his address the day following the attacks.

Politifact, a nonpartisan fact-checking website run by the Tampa Bay Times, ruled Romney's claim that the Obama administration waited 14 days to call the attacks "terror" as "half-true," because Obama most likely was referring to the Libya attacks as one of those "acts of terror," but some members of his administration waited for days until referring to it as such.

Crowley responded to the criticism directed at her Wednesday on CNN.

"I was trying to move this along because the question was (about) Benghazi," she said. "There is no question that the administration is quite vulnerable on this topic. What I wanted to do was move this along. ... So I said, (Obama) did say ‘acts of terror' … but Gov. Romney, you are perfectly right that it took weeks for them to get past the (anti-Islam YouTube video many in the Obama administration blamed for the attacks.)"

The third and final presidential debate is 9 p.m. Monday. It will focus exclusively on foreign policy and will be moderated by CBS News' Bob Schieffer.


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