The CNBC moderators’ questions on Wednesday were designed to provoke debate between the candidates. Instead, the candidates turned on the moderator and the media, accusing them of an anti-Republican bias.
CNBC’s moderators invited early criticism with questions that attacked the candidates, rather than focus on the substance. Donald Trump’s campaign was called a comic book, for example.
Campaigns and the Republican National Committee were fuming over the debate. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus slammed CNBC, saying, “CNBC should be ashamed of how this debate was handled.” Jeb Bush’s campaign manager, Danny Diaz, confronted a CNBC producer over the lack of time that Bush was receiving, according to Politico.
The moderators were also criticized for not being able to control the debate. They were frequently times when candidates and the moderators would be talking over each other. At one point, Becky Quick asked Donald Trump about his claim that Rubio was “Mark Zuckerburg’s personal Senator.” Trump then responded, “I never said that.” Quick then asked where she would have read it then and Trump said, “I don’t know, you people write this stuff,” to great applause. Quick eventually pointed out that the statement is on Trump’s website, but he deflected.
Cruz also attacked the moderators for their question topics. As moderator Carl Quintanilla asked about Cruz’s refusal to compromise, Cruz responded by saying, “Let me say something at the outset, the questions asked in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media.” The Senator from Texas followed up with examples, “This is not a cage match. And you look at the questions — Donald Trump, are you a comic book villain? Ben Carson, can you do math? John Kasich, will you insult two people over here? Marco Rubio, why don’t you resign? Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen? How about talking about the substantive issues?” Cruz’s statement got wild applause from the supportive crowd while GOP pollster Frank Luntz said it got the highest rating in his focus group.
Not content to attack CNBC, Senator Marco Rubio went after the entire mainstream media. Following up on Trump’s response about super PACs, Rubio jumped in and said that the media is “the ultimate super PAC” for the Democrats. Many in the media said that presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had the best week of her campaign after a successful debate and Benghazi hearing, but Rubio said that Clinton instead had an awful week where she was exposed as a liar. However, Rubio argues that that narrative did not emerge due to the media cheerleading for the Democrats. “It was the week she got exposed as a liar. But she has her super PAC helping her out,” Rubio said.