Fox News host Megyn Kelly became agitated on Wednesday after a member of her "focus group" noted that the panel had only been assembled to criticize debate moderator Candy Crowley because of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's poor performance.
During Tuesday night's second 2012 presidential debate, Crowley's instant fact check briefly stunned Romney by undermining his claim that President Barack Obama had not initially referred to the recent attacks in Libya as "acts of terror."
On Wednesday, Kelly assembled a nine-member "focus group" to critique Crowley's performance, something that the conservative news network had elected not to do for moderator Jim Lehrer after Romney was seen as winning the first debate.
"Candy Crowley interrupted Gov. Romney and, according to some, went from objective moderator to active participant by actually defending the president," the Fox News host explained, adding that Crowley had later tried to "walk back" her fact check -- even though she has said she did not backtrack.
"Actually it's not just a fair charge, I would say she didn't become a participant, she became an advocate," conservative radio host Kevin McCullough opined. "The rules had kept the moderator to a limited position for a reason, for the American people to decide what the candidates were saying, not to have it interpreted by a journalist who shouldn't be getting in the way."
"Uh, huh," Kelly agreed. "You have power as a moderator, as this straight-news journalist because people will hopefully look at you and think, 'Alright, this isn't a partisan, this is somebody who's going to tell me the truth.' And so there's danger in being the fact checker on the spot. Did she abuse that power?"
Kelly continued by pointing to a column by conservative Mediaite columnist Noah Rothman which argues that Americans don't trust the media because "so many straight new journalists default to a Democratic point of view."
But Kelly's "focus group" hit a snag when Bernard Whitman, a Democratic pollster, pointed out that the premise of the entire panel was to cover for Romney's "poor performance" at the debate.
"Candy Crowley did a great job pushing back against a bully in Mitt Romney," Whitman noted. "It's sort of amazing that in the face of a relatively poor performance by Romney, all we're talking about is the moderator, Candy Crowley. That sort of underscores..."
"Don't start with me," Kelly interrupted, scolding Whitman. "This is a two-hour program, this is what this panel is focused on. We got a lot of other things in this show."
"I thought it was really despicable," Tracy Davis, a former Bush speechwriter, remarked. "Because it's like she was acting like God because, you know, they can't argue with her, she's the moderator. And suddenly, Obama -- which is typical because he's politicized this whole thing."
"Romney lost the opportunity to make a point and that's why we're talking about this!" Whitman insisted one more time before the segment ended.
In contrast to the "focus group" segment lashing out at Crowley, Fox News host Sean Hannity had invited PBS host Jim Lehrer on his show to praise his moderating skills after Obama was seen as losing the first debate.
"Now, the left tried very hard to make him the scapegoat for Obama's pitiful performance, but I think for 67 million Americans who watched, it was, well, pretty obvious the blame laid squarely with the president himself," Hannity said.
Watch this video from CNN's Starting Point, broadcast Oct. 17, 2012.