Candy Crowley has been warned. CNN’s star political reporter, who is hosting tonight’s presidential debate, has come in for some rare bipartisan criticism from both the Obama and Romney camps. The reason? In pre-interviews, the debate’s host said she plans to ask the candidates follow-up questions and intervene when their answers are not clear. Neither side likes this approach. Their preferred strategy? Let the audience simply ask its question and then, once answered, promptly move on to the next.
A complaint from both campaigns has been lodged with the Commission of Presidential Debates, which oversees the event. Apparently, the Memorandum of Understanding that both campaigns sign, prior to the debate, says explicitly that the moderator is to “play a relatively limited role.” Crowley clearly feels differently. Cue concern.
So how does Candy Crowley want to run her debate? She explained in interviews that once the question is asked, her role is to say, “Hey, wait a second, what about X, Y, Z?” Astonishingly, neither side wants an experienced journalist to do that. It might be easier to ask an intern to host the debate next time around.
The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) to both Teams Obama and Romney. Not only undignified to complain, but a great PR opportunity missed.
The PR Takeaway: The better position? Nothing fazes or concerns our Presidential candidate. Complaining that an experienced journalist might simply be doing her job, i.e., asking tough follow up questions, is hardly Presidential. Let the viewers decide. Besides, the PR point here was to let the other side do the complaining, and then come out strongly saying that the hope is whoever is running for Prez can handle tough and probing questions. This was one opportunity where the moral high ground was there for the taking. For the moment, the clear winner in this debate is none other than Candy Crowley.
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