By virtue of its late-night time slot, ABC’s Nightline received the first crack among the major broadcast networks at reacting to Thursday’s Republican presidential debate and, as per the liberal media’s pattern, made all candidates not named Donald Trump an afterthought as three minutes and 34 seconds out of the six-minute-and-58-second segment were devoted to Trump and his boycott of the debate.
Host Byron Pitts noted that the debate in Iowa “was a war of words” with “[c]andidates dueling it out on stage,” but quickly shifted to Trump: “[O]nly minutes away, Donald Trump [was] sticking to his boycott, but adding more fuel to the fire in his rivalry with Fox News. So who stole the show tonight?”
Correspondent David Wright started with a series of soundbites from debate co-moderator Megyn Kelly and three GOP candidates mentioning Trump at the debate before turning to Trump’s so-called veterans event.
“Tonight, Trump went rogue, holding his own event for veterans ten minutes away in Des Moines...He also claimed to have raised $6 million for vet. Four days to caucus night and this bizarre split-screen moment,” Wright declared.
Wright touted how rival cable networks “CNN and MSNBC carried Donald Trump’s rally” while the Fox News Channel (FNC) had the debate but it was only then Wright gave way for one minute and 27 seconds to actually report on the debate with the other top seven candidates.
Alluding to how Cruz was “center stage” as the top candidate in the polls at the debate, Wright also didn’t appear to grasp Cruz’s joke to the moderators that he’d “leave the stage” if they continued to ask candidates questions concerning Cruz.
In the first of multiple soundbites, ABC News political analyst and establishment GOP strategist Matthew Dowd hyped that “[t]he biggest winner” of the evening was Trump with Rand Paul having done “the best” of those at the debate.
Wright continued dithering over Trump by extensively rehashing his disdain for Kelly and how FNC’s Bill O’Reilly pleaded with Trump on Wednesday night to reconsider his decision to not take part in the debate.
Continuing to promote the supposed benefits of Trump’s move, Wright ruled: “[I]t’s also possible Trump is being strategic, using his feud with Fox News and Megyn Kelly as an excuse.” At that point, he teed up Dowd to agree with this sentiment in applauding Trump:
But I also think there was a political calculation in it, he knows he's ahead in Iowa, new Hampshire. He knows he's ahead in all these states and maybe for him, the less risk was something happening in the debate as opposed to just missing the debate.
Before going onto the Democratic race for one minute and 17 seconds (including a teary-eyed Susan Sarandon talking about her support for socialist Bernie Sanders), Dowd chimed as another establishment Republican figure lining up to inform viewers that the GOP race is over and Trump will prevail: “I think if Donald Trump's in the lead still on Saturday, in all likelihood he's going to go on and win the nomination. He'll win Iowa then he'll win a series of other states.”
The relevant portions of the transcript from ABC’s Nightline in the early hours (Eastern Time) of January 29 can be found below.
January 29, 2016
12:40 a.m. Eastern
BRYON PITTS: Tonight, it was a war of words at the GOP debate. Candidates dueling it out on stage and only minutes away, Donald Trump sticking to his boycott, but adding more fuel to the fire in his rivalry with Fox News. So who stole the show tonight? Here's ABC's David Wright.
WRIGHT: Tonight, Trump went rogue, holding his own event for veterans ten minutes away in Des Moines.
TRUMP: Look at all the cameras like the Academy Awards. This is like the Academy Awards!
WRIGHT: He also claimed to have raised $6 million for vet. Four days to caucus night and this bizarre split-screen moment.
TRUMP: I didn't want to be here, I have to be honest. I wanted to be about five minutes away.
WRIGHT: CNN and MSNBC carried Donald Trump's rally.
TRUMP: Fox has been extremely nice and the last number of hours, actually — and they've wanted me there and they said, how about now? They called a few minutes ago. How about now? Can you come over? I said, hasn't it already started?
WRIGHT: And over on Fox, the last GOP debate minus the GOP front-runner. His absence gave some of the other candidates a chance to shine.
WRIGHT: But center stage this time was Ted Cruz, who’s now running second in Iowa.
CRUZ: Chris, I would note the last four questions have been, Rand, please attack Ted. Marco, please attack Ted. Chris, please attack Ted. Jeb, please attack Ted.
WRIGHT: Tonight, Cruz was in for a bruising.
CRUZ: Gosh, if you guys ask one more mean question, I may have to leave the stage.
ABC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST MATTHEW DOWD:The biggest winner of this politically was Donald Trump. I think if you picked somebody on stage, I think Rand Paul actually did the best.
WRIGHT: This week, Trump retweeted this at 6:30 a.m. suggesting Kelly is not exactly a credible feminist crusader. He told Bill O'Reilly Fox News has not been fair and balanced to him.
WRIGHT: But it’s also possible Trump is being strategic, using his feud with Fox News and Megyn Kelly as an excuse.
DOWD: But I also think there was a political calculation in it, he knows he's ahead in Iowa, new Hampshire. He knows he's ahead in all these states and maybe for him, the less risk was something happening in the debate as opposed to just missing the debate.
WRIGHT: But Cruz still wants a shot at Trump, launching a website called Ducking Donald and challenging him to go mano a mano in their own debate Saturday night. Trump tweeted back suggesting they “do it in Canada,” but later, he made it clear he has no intention of participating in any debates not sanctioned by the RNC. The latest Iowa polls show Trump now slightly ahead, but everyone's waiting for Saturday when The Des Moines Register releases its poll.
DOWD: I think we'll have a very good indication on Saturday. I think if Donald Trump's in the lead still on Saturday, in all likelihood he's going to go on and win the nomination. He'll win Iowa then he'll win a series of other states.