HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- Much of the talk in the spin room following Tuesday night's presidential debate centered on the role played by moderator Candy Crowley, who stopped candidates from running over time and, in the debate's most memorable moment, corrected Mitt Romney on his criticism of President Barack Obama's handling of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya.
The Romney campaign's top spokesman, Eric Ferhnstrom, said that it wasn't his tact to "complain about the refs."
"I think Candy was dandy," he added.
But if Ferhnstrom wasn't venting anger about the night's proceedings, others were. Among the Romney surrogates, there was noticeable anger over Crowley's handling of the debate. In particular, virtually all of the surrogates argued she had wrongly asserted Obama had declared the attacks on the consulate in Libya an act of terrorism.
Former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu:
Let's talk about the moderator. Both the moderator and the president were dead wrong on the Libya question. The president threw the word "terror" in his statement in the Rose Garden, but never said it was an act of terrorism. And two weeks afterward ... the president went to the UN, and at the UN, six times, blamed it on the video. That is the most dishonest statement I have ever heard from a president in a presidential debate. Candy was wrong. And Candy had no business doing that. And Candy didn't even keep the time right ... I think Candy Crowley decided she wanted to be an active part of the debate.
Former New York Governor George Pataki:
I think it would have been better to allow, particularly Governor Romney, to complete his answers more than he was able to ... I was upset with the fact that she wasn't right.
Romney Senior Adviser Ed Gillespie:
She was wrong about it, no doubt ... I'll let the American people judge for themselves in terms of the moderator and that kind of thing.
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.):
Listen, I like Candy Crowley. I think she was trying to be fair. I think when she intervened on the question of it being terror and what was said or not said. First of all, I think she misstated the position ... but no, listen, I like Candy Crowley. I think she got herself sort of into something there, but I don’t see any malice.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus on Fox News:
I'm not going to whine about the rules or the moderator. I will say, though, that tonight, point blank, the president lied to the American people about Libya. I think the moderator may have helped that along as well.
Meanwhile, Democrats in the room were more or less elated that, unlike Jim Lehrer, the previous moderator, Crowley seemed to care about staging the debate in an orderly and fact-based manner.
DNC Executive Director Patrick Gaspard:
In that one instance not only did the president say Mitt Romney was completely, factually incorrect, but the moderator herself stepped in ... she has the transcript.
Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki:
I think Candy Crowley did a great job keeping the debate going but also keeping the discussion going and holding the candidates accountable. Now Mitt Romney is the only one she fact checked. I don’t know if that happens so often. I think that's a moment people will remember as well.
Gov. Martin O'Malley (D-Md.):
I thought she did a very good job of maintaining the proper balance in this debate between the citizens asking questions and also pressing the candidates for answers while also allowing the candidates to have a reasonable amount of exchange with one another ... when you get fact-checked by the moderator, that doesn't often happen in debates, but I think it was appropriate.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.):
Some of us who know the facts and try to be objective sit there and see Mitt Romney or hear Mitt Romney stating things that are just not true and my guess is Candy Crowley debated five times in that debate whether to fact check him, and finally she had enough when it was so bold that he denied what the president said and what is on the record. So I was glad she did that and I think that was embarrassing for Mitt Romney. But if it had been one gaffe that would have been one thing. He seems to do that regularly.
Crowley, for her part, defended her performance as a moderator in a post-debate interview with CNN.
Well, I knew that the president had said 'acts of terror,' because this had come up before, and also, I heard him that day. What Mitt Romney was going for -- and I think where he tripped himself up -- was he picked that one wrong fact. The president did call it, or refer to it in some way, as an act of terror. And so I felt as though -- and the president kept looking at me going, 'you know' -- and I thought, well, I did know then. I said he did call it an act of terror. That's what caused the applause ... on this side over here, which is clearly the Obama side."
And then I said, 'you are correct that they didn't know for a couple of weeks that it wasn't related to the tape and there was no riot outside the consulate.' And then that side of the room clapped. I wasn't getting them to clap. It was meant to bring some kind of clarity to the conversation.
For the record, this is what the president said in that disputed White House press statement.
No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today we mourn four more Americans who represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done.
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