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As the moderator of the first presidential debate, the PBS Newshour anchor was skewered by critics for being steamrolled by the candidates and failing to guide the conversation with strong questions. Lehrer defended himself, noting that the debate was formatted in such a way that made his job difficult. "The format accomplished its purpose, which was to facilitate direct, extended exchanges between the candidates about issues of substance. Part of my moderator mission was to stay out of the way of the flow and I had no problems with doing so."