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Third GOP presidential debate on CNBC: Some candidates displeased with moderators, questions

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BOULDER, Colorado — Republican presidential candidates lit into CNBC’s moderators at Wednesday night’s GOP debate, issuing the sharpest attacks on the mainstream media of the election cycle.

Sen. Ted Cruz accused the moderators of trying to instigate a cage match, Sen. Marco Rubio called the media a super PAC for Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump slammed the “ridiculous questions.”

In the final minutes, sources told CNN, representatives from the campaigns began confronting the Republican National Committee to voice complaints about the tone and substance of the debate.

When the debate was over, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus blasted CNBC for asking “gotcha” questions.

“I was very disappointed in the moderators. I’m disappointed in CNBC,” he told reporters in the spin room. “I thought they would bring forward a pretty fair forum here tonight. But I think it was one gotcha question, one personal low blow after another.”

He continued, “It’s like they tried to design a Rubik’s cube for every question to take the worst element, I think, of what the moderators and what the media should bring to the table. And all I can tell you is that while I’m pretty much proud of our candidates for pretty much sticking together, I’m very disappointed in the moderators and I’m very disappointed with CNBC.”

Priebus went even further in an official statement: “One of the great things about our party is that we are able to have a dynamic exchange about which solutions will secure a prosperous future, and I will fight to ensure future debates allow for a more robust exchange,” he wrote. “CNBC should be ashamed of how this debate was handled.”

The candidates’ attacks on the media were red meat for the conservative base, which already has a deep mistrust of the mainstream press. But even by conservative standards, the attacks on Wednesday night were aggressive and unrelenting, and delighted the audience in Boulder, Colorado.

CNBC’s moderators struggled to maintain control of a debate that, according to many journalists on Twitter, they were ill-equipped to handle.

The night left GOP hopefuls and reporters wishing for the previous Republican debate moderators from Fox News and CNN.

Politico’s John Bresnahan joked that CNBC was frantically calling CNN and Fox “to ask how to run a debate,” while Matthew Continetti, the editor of the conservative Washington Free Beacon, wrote: “Winners of GOP Debate so far: Jake Tapper and Anderson Cooper.”

On stage, Sen. Cruz was the night’s most vocal media critic, condemning CNBC for trying to instigate fights between the candidates while ignoring issues that mattered to voters.

“The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media,” Cruz said, after being asked a question about the debt ceiling. “This is not a cage match.”

“How about talking about the substantive issues people care about,” Cruz added to thunderous applause from the audience.

The audience in Boulder was electrified by Cruz’s attack. Social media mentions of Cruz blew up during his attack on the media, while pollster Frank Luntz said his focus group “burst out in applause at Ted Cruz’s media attack.”

“Ted Cruz’s focus group dials hits 98 with his attack on media bias,” Luntz wrote on Twitter. “That’s the highest score we’ve ever measured. EVER.”

The Texas Senator wasn’t the only one to slam the mainstream media at the debate: Rubio, asked to respond to a Florida Sun Sentinel editorial that had called on him to drop out of the race, called it “evidence of the bias that exists in the American media.”

Later in the debate, Rubio declared that the mainstream media was so biased in favor of Hillary Clinton that it was effectively functioning as her Super PAC.

Trump, who had predicted early that the debate would be “unfair,” criticized CNBC’s moderators for asking “ridiculous questions,” and later called a question to Mike Huckabee “nasty.”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie looked one moderator in the eye and said, “Even in New Jersey what you’re doing is called rude.”

At various points in the debate, both Rubio and Trump accused the moderators of having their facts wrong.

CNBC’s problems were further compounded by the network’s meandering commentary between the night’s two debates, which was widely panned on Twitter.

“CNBC does underscore that the only people sometimes more vapid than candidates are journalists talking about candidates,” New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof tweeted, echoing the sentiments of hundreds of journalists and political operatives.

“Is this a public access channel?” asked Jon Favreau, the former speechwriter for President Barack Obama.

The commentary was almost universally criticized for being unfocused and lacking substance. The panelists, usually familiar with covering Wall Street and finance, were left scrambling to talk about a presidential race they seemed to know little about.

A CNBC spokesperson declined to comment on the candidates’ attacks on the moderators.

11 comments

  • David John Francis

    TRUMP CAN DO IT!

    WITH TRUMP I SEE THOUSANDS OF SMALL AND LARGE BUSINESSES THAT ORIGINALLY CLOSED DOWN, OWING TO IMPORTS FROM JAPAN, CHINA AND MEXICO REOPENING. MORE JOBS, LESS TAXES AND A FAR SUPERIOR ECONOMY WITH DONALD TRUMP. NO INFLUENCE OF THE POWERFUL. THE WEALTHY BUYERS OF VOTES, CANNOT AFFORD TRUMP. THEY WILL BUY THE OTHER CANDIDATES, INCLUDING CARSON. THIS IS WHY WASHINGTON IS SO CORRUPT. EVEN THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA WILL LIE, AND NEVER TELL THE TRUTH? THE PRESS WILL TAKE DONALD TRUMPS STATEMENTS OUT OF CONTEXT. MOST PARAMOUNT; ENDING ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION.

    You should consider how much more Donald Trump can do for your family and the US people? Far much more than the puppets who must bear allegiance to their wealthy benefactors that hand out the money. He needs nothing from them. they have no corruptible power or influence over him; they cannot buy him , unlike Carson, Clinton, Bush or any of them, so that why the so called high and mighty GOP or Democrats are proclaiming their battle lines to destroy him. They have no choice, because they are crippled by the money on loan from the special interests and later want something from the legislators in return? Sen. Rand Paul is an insider; part of the GOP establishment career trump can do it!

  • R

    The questions were ridiculous, the candidates pointed it out and gave awesome answers. The moderators and CNBC were losers of this debate, completely indicitive of how in the tank the liberal media is for Democrats. I’ve never heard more applause for anyone than when Cruz pointed out the fact. How many softball questions did they throw up for Democrats? I’d complain, but I’ve never watched CNBC in my life and won’t begin after this mess.

  • Truth Hertz

    The fact that Republicans and their candidates are whining about questions not being tender enough for their liking further lets me know none of the crooks will be able to deal with the hard decisions that come along with being the POTUS. Stop making excuses, life offers challenges and the strong persevere not cry about. Nothing wrong with the questions, it was the whiny candidates that had the problem.

    • R

      Hey dumb-dumb, Democrats had real hard questions like, “What’s your greatest accomplishment?” And, “What would your secret service nickname be?”

      YEAH THAT DEFINES WHAT PANTS SUIT AND OLD SOCIALIST ARE MADE OF.

      • Fed-up

        Hertz, your head probably hurts after reading a childrens book. The questions were something from a reality tv show. Just horrendous. But, being the typical brainwashed socialist, you are unable to recognize such atrocities to the American public.

    • Reasonless

      TruthHertz, you obviously didn’t even watch the debate.
      Regardless of what side you favor, you just made a complete fool of yourself with your comment.
      Perhaps you should educate yourself on a subject before making a comment.

    • YO

      The truth will hurt when the democratic machine throws a rod and breaks down like a un oiled lawn mower along with it’s socialist liberal media and are melted into scrap in the upcoming election. The Democrats don’t have anything to run on except some worn out pants suit guilty of lies to the American public.

  • Nick

    “Some candidates displeased”? SOME? How about the ENTIRE media, both liberal AND conservative wings? CNBC was a disaster tonight. Do a quick Google News search: ALL sides agree that the network and its incompetent hosts gave the GOP its biggest collective victory of this campaign season.

  • unicorns and rainbows

    The only reason CNN is happy (Tapper and Anderson) is now they don’t look as bad as their miserable debate moderation from a couple weeks ago. Its about time the liberal bias media is called out on the national platform.

  • sheliedpeopledied

    This was the most disgusting display of liberal mainstream media trying to make the Republican candidates fight amongst each other and make them look like bumbling fools. That was not the case though. The candidates and audience fired back and destroyed cnbc. In contrast rnc called out the democratic debate for what it was a fireplace chat amongst friends all compliments of MSM.
    HIllary was given a pass after she lied about Benghazi by the MSM. She should appoint her daughter as ambassdor to Libya and be brough up on charges. Disgusting, no wonder this country is going to hell in a blimp.

  • Liberty

    The Moderators and CNBC are a joke. They looked like a bunch of fools! I give Trump allot of credit for not attending this show of stupid people trying to run a debate.

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