Crowley: Despite the critics, moderating debate was 'a great time'

The CNN “State of the Union” anchor adds, “I had a great time. I really did.”

Crowley, along with “PBS NewsHour” correspondents Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff, shared some of their behind-the-scenes tales from election-year debates at “Campaign 2012 Coverage: Breaking New Ground,” held Tuesday by the Bipartisan Policy Center at the Newseum in downtown Washington, D.C.

At the event, held debate-style with Newseum CEO James Duff serving as moderator, clips were shown from the contentious debate that Crowley moderated on Oct. 16 at Hofstra University in New York. The longtime political journalist, who told ITK earlier in the night that she had not yet had a chance to watch the debate, laughed lightly as video played of President Obama and Mitt Romney sparring over pensions.

But Crowley says things weren’t exactly how they might have looked to television viewers: “It was less hot on the stage than it appeared on T.V. The T.V. heats things up. And [Obama and Romney] looked much closer together — I didn’t get the hatred that everybody thought they saw. I did not pick up that vibe.”

Duff asked Crowley about the attention she’s received from “the Libya question.” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) was one of several conservative critics who took the CNN moderator to task for affirming during the debate Obama's position that he did refer to the attack on Benghazi's consulate on Sept. 11 as an “act of terror” a day after the deadly incident killed four Americans.

Chaffetz told Crowley in an interview a day after the debate, "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.' "alt

Crowley says she interjected because, “I was actually trying to move them on, you know, saying, ‘Yes he did.’ ”

While she admits, “I wish I had been just a tiny bit more articulate in the second when I was saying to Romney but you are [right as] well,” she contends she wouldn’t have done anything differently.

“What happened was when I said the first thing, people started to applaud, which startled me a little bit because I didn’t think it was that startling. And then when I turned to the governor and said, ‘But governor you’re right about this other thing,’ the other side started to clap. So in all the clapping, people missed the totality of what was going on.”

The night also took a lighter turn when Ifill recalled a pre-debate boo-boo she suffered just ahead of the 2008 VP match-up between then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) and then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R).

The newswoman says that she “paid the price” for prepping to moderate the debate by reading the biographies of Biden and Palin. After leaving the tomes on the stairs of her home, she tripped on them during a dash down the staircase and broke her ankle in a few different places.

Ifill said to laughs from the audience, “[I] moderated the debate with my leg in a great, big splint with a box that they built me under the table. They built an elevator to get me onto the stage. I was escorted on by two [Washington University] football players.”

Woodruff cracked, “The moral of the story is: don’t read their books.”

Photos courtesy of Bipartisan Policy Center. Right photo: Newseum CEO James Duff, Judy Woodruff, Gwen Ifill, Candy Crowley and Bipartisan Policy Center President Jason Grumet.