Grapevine: Jim Lehrer defends role in first debate

And now some fresh pickings from the Political Grapevine...

Man in the Middle

Presidential debate moderator Jim Lehrer is pushing back against criticism of how he handled Wednesday night's event.



JIM LEHRER, MODERATOR: Just for the -- just for the record. Excuse me -- just so everybody understands. We are way over our first 15 minutes.

ROMNEY: That's fine. Isn't it?

LEHRER: It's ok it's great.

OBAMA: That's ok

LEHRER: No problem. If you all don't have a problem, I don't have a problem


Lehrer tells Politico, the new debate format was designed so that – quote -- "The moderator should be seen little and heard even less. It is up to the candidates to ask the follow-up questions and challenge one another."Lehrer says the criticism won't keep him up at night.

Sing for the Moment

This one will make you scratch your head. Agriculture Department employees were reportedly told to chant -- quote -- "Our forefathers were illegal immigrants."

Conservative group Judicial Watch says the chant was part of a diversity workshop. The USDA did not confirm or dispute the chant but said that the sessions quote -- "received positive feedback from employees across the department."

Judicial Watch says the agency has paid the workshop consultants at least $200,000 over the last two years.

Big Bird, Big Bucks

And finally, he's been in the news a lot lately but did you know that Big Bird is worth some big bucks even more than Mitt Romney?

The total assets of Sesame Workshop were just under $400 million at the end of 2009's fiscal year.

That is according to the publicly available tax forms.

South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint told the Daily Caller -- quote -- "'Sesame Street' is a multi-million dollar enterprise and Cookie Monster will eat just fine without taxpayer subsidies."