CBS’s Garrett Hammers NBC for Boosting Warren During Debate

On Thursday’s CBS This Morning, chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett was not pleased with NBC’s handling of Wednesday night’s first Democratic primary debate. The reporter panned the moderators for giving Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren “five questions in the first 40 minutes” and therefore boosting her candidacy.

“What is interesting to me about last night is Elizabeth Warren got five questions in the first 40 minutes. That solidified the appearance of her being the most important person on that stage,” Garrett noted as he called out the rival broadcast network. Co-host Gayle King agreed with the criticism: “I noticed that, too, Major. If I was the other candidates I would say...‘I’m here too,’ yeah.” Garrett added: “And other candidates were getting a little uncomfortable with it.”

 

 

He explained why the numerous early questions were such an advantage for Warren: “Now, she was less visible in the second hour, but just that prominence of getting that many questions sort of signaled to the audience this is the most important person on the stage.”

Referring to Democratic Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, one of the 2020 contenders, King pointed out: “Didn’t Tulsi’s sister tweet about that?” Garrett confirmed: “She did. She said, ‘It’s clear NBC wants Elizabeth Warren to be the nominee.’ I mean, sort of like saying, wow, why are they structurally doing it this way?”

Gabbard’s sister pointedly tweeted: “It’s clear who MSNBC wants to be president: Elizabeth Warren.”

In addition to taking NBC to task, Garrett made broader critiques of media debate coverage overall:

...we should not be in the position of acting like theater critics....lots of reporters watch those debates and come up with performance analysis. We actually talked to people in Ames and Des Moines last night. And Amy Klobuchar, who a lot of reporters said didn’t have a great night, they thought did very well. Tulsi Gabbard’s name came up. The New York Times said Julian Castro won the night, his name didn’t come up at all in Ames and Des Moines. What that tells you is voters look at this differently than we do. And if I learned anything from 2016, it’s that reporters shouldn’t tell the country what’s happening and what to think about what just happened. They’ll tell us over time, wait for that process to play out.

King joked: “But we can’t help it, though, Major.” Garrett replied: “The pull and the temptation never ends, but we need to resist it.”

At least someone in the media is telling journalists to stop putting their thumbs on the scale and let voters actually decide election contests. If only any of them would listen.

Many of questions from NBC’s moderators skewed decidedly to the left throughout the night.

Here is a full transcript of the June 27 segment:

7:07 AM ET

ANTHONY MASON: Chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett is with us. Major, the highest polling candidate on the stage last night was Elizabeth Warren. How did she do?

MAJOR GARRETT: So one thing I want to share with the audience, because we’re going to do this a lot, we should not be in the position of acting like theater critics. Voters will tell us what they thought over time. So I don’t evaluate performances. What is interesting to me about last night is Elizabeth Warren got five questions in the first 40 minutes. That solidified the appearance of her being the most important person on that stage.

GAYLE KING: I noticed that, too, Major. If I was the other candidates I would say –

GARRETT: And other candidates were getting a little uncomfortable with it.

KING: Yeah, “I’m here too,” yeah.

GARRETT: Now, she was less visible in the second hour, but just that prominence of getting that many questions sort of signaled to the audience this is the most important person on the stage. Whether she is or not, we’ll find out. One point I want to make about –

KING: Didn’t Tulsi’s [Gabbard] sister tweet about that?

GARRETT: She did. She said, “It’s clear NBC wants Elizabeth Warren to be the nominee.” I mean, sort of like saying, wow, why are they structurally doing it this way?

One thing to think about, lots of reporters watch those debates and come up with performance analysis. We actually talked to people in Ames and Des Moines last night. And Amy Klobuchar, who a lot of reporters said didn’t have a great night, they thought did very well. Tulsi Gabbard’s name came up. The New York Times said Julian Castro won the night, his name didn’t come up at all in Ames and Des Moines. What that tells you is voters look at this differently than we do. And if I learned anything from 2016, it’s that reporters shouldn’t tell the country what’s happening and what to think about what just happened. They’ll tell us over time, wait for that process to play out.

KING: But we can’t help it, though, Major.

GARRETT: I know. [Laughter] I know, the temptation is –

KING: We can’t help it, Major!

GARRETT: The pull and the temptation never ends, but we need to resist it.

KING: But you’re making a good point.

MASON: And we’re also looking at it almost everyday.

GARRETT: Exactly.

MASON: And most people – for many people, that that was the first time they saw this.

GARRETT: Precisely. And the key about debates like this, especially early on is, okay, you have a good moment. What do you do? Do you have a campaign infrastructure that can take advantage of it? Can you raise money? Can you put together better town halls? Can you do something to use this as a springboard? That’s the next stage for every candidate that does something at a debate stage that stands out.

TONY DOKOUPIL: Alright, Major, I will hold my question until the 8:00 hour, when you’ll be back with us for much more debate analysis.

KING: Well, now I’m scared to ask him about some analysis. [Laughter]

DOKOUPIL: And I will try to find a way to formulate my questions in a non-theater-critic way.

KING: Yes, that’s right.  

GARRETT: That is your task.

KING: We’re going to work on it.

GARRETT: And I know you can do it.

DOKOUPIL: Alright, Major, thank you very much.

KING: Thank you, Major.

DOKOUPIL: We appreciate it. We’ll be looking ahead to tonight’s debate in that next hour.

NB Daily Campaigns & Elections 2020 Presidential Debates Media Bias Debate Liberals & Democrats CBS CBS This Morning NBC Video Major Garrett Elizabeth Warren Tulsi Gabbard

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