Reporters from both conservative and liberal-minded news organizations seem to agree: the CNBC Republican presidential debate was kind of a trainwreck.
That wasn’t really because of the candidates, though — it was because of the moderators. For the first hour, CNBC moderators Becky Quick, John Harwood, and Carl Quintanilla didn’t let candidates interact with each other, resulting in multiple moments of incomprehensible yelling. This may have been because of stricter time limits — this particular 10-candidate debate was only two hours, while the previous Republican debates have spanned three hours.
But constant interruption wasn’t the only problem. Candidates were also highly critical of the CNBC crew, accusing them of being part of the “liberal media.” At one point, Ted Cruz ripped into the moderators for asking what he called unfair and non-substantive questions. And in two instances, audience members actually booed at questions the moderators asked of Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee.
There was even a moment when moderator Becky Quick admitted she was unsure of Donald Trump’s position on high-skill immigrant visas after questioning him about it. She first asserted that Trump was critical of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg, who wanted to increase H-1B visas for highly skilled immigrants. This is true — Trump has been critical of Zuckerburg for that reason. But when Trump said he hadn’t been, and Quick admitted she was confused.
“Where did I come up with this?” she asked, “That you were..?”
Trump interrupted: “I don’t know. You people write this stuff.”
Quick then apologized to Trump for ostensibly misquoting him — she accused Trump of calling Marco Rubio “Mark Zuckerburg’s personal senator,” and Trump said he “never said that.” But Trump did say that — the statement is literally on his campaign site.
The debacle garnered a lot of Twitter angst from journalists:
— Sarah Rumpf (@rumpfshaker) October 29, 2015
These moderators are CRASHING and burning. Holy crap. I have never seen anything this bad.
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) October 29, 2015
Even liberal reporters in the press room are groaning about how terrible these CNBC moderators are.
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) October 29, 2015
These moderators are just the worst. #GOPDebate
— Lisa Friedman (@LFFriedman) October 29, 2015
Would it be hard to do a panel swap-out during the break? Is Jake Tapper or Chris Wallace in the wings?
— adam nagourney (@adamnagourney) October 29, 2015