Candy Crowley’s Pre-Debate Comments Raise Alarms in Both Camps (Updated)

Candy Crowley's pre-debate comments raise concerns in campaigns that she may be overstepping her role in the town-hall format

Last Updated: October 15, 2012 @ 1:10 PM

Candy Crowley, the CNN correspondent scheduled to moderate Tuesday's presidential debate, raised concerns from both campaigns by hinting that she would aggressively press President Barack Obama and his GOP opponent Mitt Romney for follow up.

Getty ImagesCrowley said that she plans to take a more active role in the debate, despite a memorandum between the Commission on Presidential Debates and the two campaigns that said her responsibilities would be largely limited to fielding audience questions in the town-hall style parley.

“Once the table is kind of set by the town-hall questioner," she said last week, "there is then time for me to say, ‘Hey, wait a second, what about X, Y, Z?’”

Both campaigns signed an agreement Oct. 3 diluting Crowley's duty to press candidates on their initial answers to questions. Crowley, nor any other moderator, signed the "Memorandum of Understanding."

The clause in the secret document, obtained by Time magazine's Mark Halperin, reads: "In managing the two-minute comment periods, the moderator will not rephrase the question or open a new topic … The moderator will not ask follow-up questions or comment on either the questions asked by the audience or the answers of the candidates during the debate or otherwise intervene in the debate except to acknowledge the questioners from the audience or enforce the time limits, and invite candidate comments during the two-minute response period."

Also read: Jim Lehrer on Debate Criticism: 'So What?'

The debate, schedule for Tuesday from 6-7:30 p.m. PST, will be broadcast from Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York.

Both campaigns reportedly contacted the commission after hearing Crowley's "x, y, z" comment on CNN, though the language of the agreement appears to limit the group's ability to strongarm moderators into abiding by it.

"The Commission shall provide each moderator with a copy of this agreement and shall use its best efforts to ensure that the moderators implement the terms of the agreement," the document reads.

The confusion appears to be the latest in a series of tensions between the commission, the campaigns and the moderators of the debates. The bipartisan panel was created in 1988 to stage the debates, and has often found itself at odds with campaigns that try to sidestep its role in organizing the rhetorical showdowns. In 2004, President George W. Bush's re-election campaign attempted to cut the commission out of the process.

Time released PDFs of the memorandum later on Monday afternoon. Read them here.

Updated at 1:10 p.m. PST with a link to the PDFs of the Memorandum of Understanding.