CNN’s Candy Crowley talks about hosting presidential debate


When CNN’s Candy Crowley got the news last week that she would be hosting the second of three presidential debates this fall, it was not a I-am-woman-hear-me-roar moment.

Janet Brown, executive director of the Commission on Presidential Debates, made the invitation, which will make Crowley the first woman to moderate one of the debates since 1992.

“If this is something young women look at and say, ‘I can do this,’ I think, ‘Absolutely, you can do this,’ I am all for that,“ Crowley said Monday in some of her first remarks about the opportunity. “But I think, first, I am a journalist, and this is just an amazing opportunity as a journalist…. And I am a girl.”


Crowley’s selection, along with that of ABC’s Martha Raddatz, who was picked to host the lone vice presidential debate, caused a bit of a sensation around the Internet. But the veteran political reporter, who hosts “State of the Union” on Sundays on CNN, said Brown offered the job in such a matter-of-fact manner that the significance didn’t register immediately.

“It was such a low-key call, I was at first thinking, ‘What is she saying?’ ” said Crowley, who was near Lake Michigan vacationing with her family. “I never knew I was in the running, or not in the running.”

As Politics Now noted on the announcement of Crowley’s selection, the pick is at least as significant for bringing a serious field reporter into the debate fray as for tapping a woman. (PBS’ Jim Lehrer will host debate No. 1 and Bob Schieffer of CBS News will run No. 2.)

Crowley doesn’t envision that she will bring a particularly different style or substance to her job than a man would. She just plans to be herself, which includes thinking about questions and honing them every day between now and the Oct. 16 debate, at Hofstra University in New York state. (The initial queries will be guided, town-hall-style, by the audience.)

Crowley said she had received many notes of congratulations from Republicans, Democrats and people of no particular political stripe. There has also been a less pronounced bit of criticism, attributing one bias or another to the moderator-designate.

“Have I ever made a mistake? I am sure,” Crowley said. “Do I think I can stand on my record? I do.”

The first woman to host a presidential debate since ABC’s Carole Simpson (she hosted Bill Clinton, President George H.W. Bush and Ross Perot in 1992) expects the debate, the second of three, will arrive before she knows it.

“Every day is prep time. I am thinking it will be like preparing for the Sunday show, on steroids,” Crowley said. “When I have it figured out will be when I say, ‘Hello, and welcome to the debate.’ ”

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james.rainey@latimes.comTwitter: @latimesrainey