CNN: ‘Obama Got More Time to Speak . . . Largely Because He Speaks More Slowly’

by Katrina Trinko

TMZ says CNN managing editor Mark Whitaker sent this e-mail to employees in light of the criticism of Candy Crowley as moderator:

Let’s start with a big round of applause for Candy Crowley for a superb job under the most difficult circumstances imaginable. She and her team had to select and sequence questions in a matter of hours, and then she had to deal with the tricky format, the nervous questioners, the aggressive debaters, all while shutting out the pre-debate attempts to spin and intimidate her. She pulled it off masterfully. 

The reviews on Candy’s performance have been overwhelmingly positive but Romney supporters are going after her on two points, no doubt because their man did not have as good a night as he had in Denver. On the legitimacy of Candy fact-checking Romney on Obama’s Rose Garden statement, it should be stressed that she was just stating a point of fact: Obama did talk about an act (or acts) of terror, no matter what you think he meant by that at the time. On why Obama got more time to speak, it should be noted that Candy and her commission producers tried to keep it even but that Obama went on longer largely because he speaks more slowly. We’re going to do a word count to see whether, as in Denver, Romney actually got more words in even if he talked for a shorter period of time.

CNN did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the e-mail.

I checked the transcript, and by my count, Whitaker is correct: Obama, despite speaking for 4 minutes and 18 seconds more than Romney (by CNN’s own clock!), said fewer words than Romney. Obama’s word count was 7,557 while Romney’s was 8,124.

Now whether it’s the debate moderators’s job to unevenly divide the time so as to make allowances for one candidate speaking more slowly is another matter . . .

However, on the Rose Garden statement, Crowley, contra this e-mail, did not merely say that Obama had mentioned “acts of terror”  on September 12, but that he had mentioned them in connection to the Benghazi attacks — which was the point of dispute between Obama and Romney, not whether the phrase “acts of terror” had been uttered by Obama:

ROMNEY: I want to make sure we get that for the record because it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.

OBAMA: Get the transcript.

CROWLEY: It — it — it — he did in fact, sir. So let me — let me call it an act of terror…

OBAMA: Can you say that a little louder, Candy?

CROWLEY: He — he did call it an act of terror. 

“He did call it [the Benghazi attacks] an act of terror” doesn’t sound to me like Crowley “was just stating a point of fact: Obama did talk about an act (or acts) of terror, no matter what you think he meant by that at the time.”

UPDATE: CNN e-mails this response:

The Mark Whitaker note cited in the TMZ story is real.  Whitaker leads our editorial meeting every day.  He began the meeting yesterday asking for a round of applause for Candy (even though she wasn’t there). The daily meeting is a video conference between CNN NY, DC and ATL and dozens more join by phone.

There has been nothing but praise internally for Candy, and we are thrilled and proud of the remarkable job she did.   

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