The HillTube

Romney surrogate rebukes Crowley for 'fact-check' on Libya during debate

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), a prominent surrogate for Mitt Romney, on Wednesday rebuked Candy Crowley for backing up President Obama during a discussion of Libya at Tuesday's debate.

Crowley on Wednesday defended her decision as moderator to settle a disagreement between Romney and Obama, saying she only intended to "move them along."

But Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), a prominent Romney surrogate, said she overstepped.

"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,' " he said to Crowley during a roundtable on CNN's "Starting Point." He added that he thought she did a great job as moderator other than during the exchange on Libya.

"It wasn't necessarily your place to try to be fact-checker right there," Chaffetz said. "I happen to think that your assessment of that was wrong, and so I was a bit frustrated on that particular point."

ADVERTISEMENT
In an exchange the campaigns are still arguing about Wednesday morning, Romney criticized Obama for not calling last month's attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi an act of "terrorism" until two weeks after the incident that resulted in the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya. 

Obama said he called the violence "an act of terror" the day after it happened, and when Romney continued to challenge him, Crowley spoke up.

"He did call it an act of terror," Crowley said. "It did as well take two weeks or so for the whole idea of there being a riot out there, about this tape, to come out. You are correct about that.” 

“Can you say that a little louder, Candy?” Obama asked during the debate, to applause from the crowd. Conservatives immediately protested that Crowley was siding with Obama and challenged that the president's use of the phrase "act of terror" in his Rose Garden speech on Sept. 12 was arguably not a direct reference to the attack on the consulate.

Crowley explained to CNN after the debate that she thought Romney "was right in the main, I just think he picked the wrong word."

She explained further in Wednesday morning's interview: "There is no question that the administration is quite vulnerable on this topic, that they did take weeks to go, 'Well, actually there really wasn't a protest and actually it didn't have anything to do with the tape.' That took a long time."

She added that she thought it took nearly a month for the administration to admit that the violence was not spontaneous and that there had been security concerns at the consulate preceding the incident. The administration's initial explanation was that an anti-Islam video posted on YouTube prompted a spontaneous protest.

"Then we got hung up on this 'Yes, he said'; 'No, I didn't'; 'I said terror'; 'You didn't say terror.' There was this point where they both kind of looked at me," Crowley explained of the exchange. "What I wanted to do was kind of move this along."

Crowley's role as moderator was already under fire before the debate due to an agreement between the campaigns that would have banned her from rephrasing questions, opening a new topic, asking follow-up questions or commenting on either questions or answers given by the candidates.

Crowley said before the debate that she saw her role as that of facilitator. 

Paul Ryan, in another interview with ABC News on Wednesday morning, said Crowley backtracked on siding with Obama over "act of terror," something Crowley denied. She maintained that she always granted each candidate had a point and added that she hoped the campaigns would go back to focusing on each other, rather than her, soon.

She added that she did not get the impression that either candidate was specifically targeting her or her performance during the debate.

"The first person that made a beeline for me was Gov. Romney; he came over and said, 'Thanks, Candy, very much. Great debate,' " she said. "I never felt like they were anything other than two men who were watching the calendar squeeze in on them toward Election Day, and they were there to fight it out."