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CNN Exec Puts Positive Spin on Candy Crowley Amid Conservative Criticism

Candy Crowley Headshot - P 2012

In a staff memo, Mark Whitaker defends the debate moderator, arguing that Obama got more speaking time because he talks "more slowly" and that the network is going to do a word-count comparison between him and Romney.

Amid harsh criticism of debate moderator Candy Crowley, CNN is looking to put a positive spin on her performance.

On Wednesday, during an editorial meeting and in a recap memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, CNN Worldwide executive vp and managing editor Mark Whitaker praised CNN's Crowley for doing "a superb job" during Tuesday night's presidential debate, the second face-off between President Obama and GOP candidate Mitt Romney.

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"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," he said.

But conservatives including Ann Coulter and Tucker Carlson have bashed Crowley for allowing Obama more speaking time (the president spoke for 44:04 minutes to Romney's 40:50, according to CNN) and for fact-checking an assertion Romney made about Obama's response to the deadly attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya.

During the debate, Romney said it took Obama two weeks to declare it a “terrorist attack,” an assertion Crowley deemed false, noting Obama called it a terror attack in his Rose Garden remarks. Obama actually said "no acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation."

After the debate, Crowley conceded Romney had been “right in the main” but chose the wrong words.

Opined Fox News Channel commentator Carlson: “Her many friends in the press will claim otherwise, but honestly when was the last time you saw someone do a worse job moderating a debate."

Coulter tweeted: “Obama (and Candy) lied, our ambassador died: No, Obama Didn’t Call Benghazi 'Act of Terror' in Speech.”

STORY: Candy Crowley: Conservatives Bash Moderator's Fact Check 

Whitaker, meanwhile, defended Crowley on Wednesday, arguing that she was "just stating a point of fact" in regards to the "terror" comment. He also said Obama got more speaking time because he "speaks more slowly." The network also is planning to do a "word count" to see which candidate comes out ahead.

Read the full note below:

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.