If You’re Going to Fact-Check in the Middle of a Debate, Big Media, You Damn Well Better Get It Right
Mitt Romney did OK in this debate. Probably Big Media will award Obama the victory. Obama channeled his inner Biden, and interrupted Romney repeatedly while whining about time (even as he got three more minutes thanks to Candy Crowley cutting off Mitt Romney every time he was making a point). If the New Wisdom is that rudeness is strength, then Obama was stronger.
But for conservatives, the lesson of this debate was tat the American people got to see the blatant bias of a moderator stepping in to side with a candidate — even as she stepped all over herself trying to articulate her point.
Crowley screwed up in three ways — one that you’re reading about everywhere, and another two ways that I haven’t seen anyone else complain about.
The obvious point that you’re reading everywhere is that it’s not at all clear Obama called Benghazi an act of terror:
At most, he may have implied it was an act of terror. But then he specifically refused to call it terrorism when asked on multiple occasions, on the View and on Univision. And he sent out Ambassador Rice to bleat about the YouTube video (the “tape”) on five Sunday yakkers. And he brought up the YouTube video six times in his U.N. speech.
At the very least, Candy, this issue was debatable. Let me say that again: it was debatable.
Which is why you let the candidates debate this debatable issue, in their debate.
WHAT YOU HAVE NOT READ ELSEWHERE: On to point two, which is more obscure. Here is Candy Crowley admitting that Mitt Romney was right “in the main”:
20 seconds in, she says:
Right after that, I did turn around and say: “But you were totally correct that they spent two weeks telling us this was about a tape, and that there was, you know, this riot outside the Benghazi consultate, which there wasn’t.” So, he was right in the main. I just think he picked the wrong word.
(Keep that in mind: that she is critical of Romney for using the wrong words.)
So Crowley claims that she communicated that the administration spent two weeks claiming the killings occurred because of the YouTube video. Lest there be any mistake, later in the clip she repeats the claim:
Half the crowd claps for that, and the other half claps for: but they kept telling us this was caused by a tape.
Here’s the problem. That’s not what she actually said. In fact, she said the complete opposite: that it took the administration two weeks to come out with the story about the tape. Here’s the transcript:
ROMNEY: I — I think interesting the president just said something which — which is that on the day after the attack he went into the Rose Garden and said that this was an act of terror.
OBAMA: That’s what I said.
ROMNEY: You said in the Rose Garden the day after the attack, it was an act of terror.
It was not a spontaneous demonstration, is that what you’re saying?
OBAMA: Please proceed governor.
ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.
OBAMA: Get the transcript.
CROWLEY: It — it — it — he did in fact, sir. So let me — let me call it an act of terror…
OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy?
CROWLEY: He — he did call it an act of terror. It did as well take — it did as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea there being a riot out there about this tape to come out. You are correct about that.
So, far from making it clear that the Administration had claimed for two weeks that the violence was a reaction to the “tape” (the movie and the YouTube trailer), Crowley actually said the opposite: that it took two weeks for that idea to “come out.”
What was that about using the wrong words again?
Now, to be fair, she said Romney was correct, and then (after the above quote) agreed with his statement that “the administration indicated this was a reaction to a video and was a spontaneous reaction.” But her quick “it did” agreement did not necessarily make up for the misimpression caused by her garbled statement.
Of course, we now have the above video, in which she says Romney was right “in the main.” And, as Allahpundit says: “Upwards of 60 million people likely watched her side with Obama on Libya during the debate. How many saw this clip on CNN’s post-game show? One million, maybe?”
I was prescient in my open thread post — the one about how the candidates have to be the fact checkers because Big Media will screw up the job. Romney slipped up because this point about Obama calling it an “act of terror” had been a lefty talking point already — I knew Obama had said it — and Romney should have been prepared for that spin. Big Media mangles the fact checks on these things all the time. The candidate has to do the job.
But it is the height of outrage for the moderator to attempt a fact check right in the middle of the debate — and then to screw it up so badly.
If Crowley had any shame, she would feel it now. I think in that clip above, she is trying to minimize the importance of it, and to recharacterize what she said to make it sound more evenhanded. But it wasn’t. 60 million people saw her side with Obama. Here is how the L.A. Times put it:
But Romney’s attack went off course as he tried to insist that Obama had not referred to the attack as an act of “terror” until two weeks after it took place.
Obama responded that he used the word “terror” to describe the attack the day after it occurred, in an address from the Rose Garden. When Romney attempted to dispute that, Crowley stepped in to say that Obama was correct.
This is the simple takeaway, thanks to Crowley’s bias: Romney screwed up and the referee put him in his place.
ANOTHER OBSERVATION YOU’RE NOT SEEING ELSEWHERE: Crowley also let Obama off the hook on Libya with her “let’s move on” shtick that she employed every time Romney tried to make a point. Romney did try to follow up with the issue of the U.N. Ambassador misrepresenting things on the Sunday shows, but Obama suddenly became very concerned about moving on so all these wonderful folks can have their questions answered.
And Candy obligingly helped him dodge the bullet:
ROMNEY: It took them a long time to say this was a terrorist act by a terrorist group. And to suggest — am I incorrect in that regard, on Sunday, the — your secretary –
ROMNEY: Excuse me. The ambassador of the United Nations went on the Sunday television shows and spoke about how –
OBAMA: Candy, I’m –
ROMNEY: — this was a spontaneous –
CROWLEY: Mr. President, let me –
OBAMA: I’m happy to have a longer conversation –
CROWLEY: I know you –
OBAMA: — about foreign policy.
CROWLEY: Absolutely. But I want to — I want to move you on and also –
OBAMA: OK. I’m happy to do that, too.
CROWLEY: — the transcripts and –
OBAMA: I just want to make sure that –
CROWLEY: — figure out what we –
OBAMA: — all of these wonderful folks are going to have a chance to get some of their questions answered.
CROWLEY: Because what I — what I want to do, Mr. President, stand there a second, because I want to introduce you to Nina Gonzalez, who brought up a question that we hear a lot, both over the Internet and from this crowd.
All she had to do was say: Isn’t that right, Mr. President? Didn’t Ambassador Rice tell the world for days that this was all about the “tape”?
But you know what? Obama did say he would be happy to have a longer discussion about this. And the third debate is foreign policy. And Candy’s decision to flap her gums on this issue ensures that the issue will be front and center.
You’re going to get that longer discussion, Mr. Obama.
Me? I’m looking forward to it.