Column: Avoiding Debate Debacles With the Liberal Media

June 30th, 2023 8:50 AM

Everyone who cannot abide the way that liberal networks attempt to mangle Republican presidential candidates in primary debates is having the same thought: If the Democrats never award a primary debate to Fox News or Newsmax, why on Earth should Republicans subject themselves to CNN or MSNBC or the rest?

Sen. Ted Cruz once suggested banning anyone from moderating a GOP primary debate if they’ve never voted in a Republican primary. Liberal journalists were appalled – probably because they don’t know any colleagues who ever voted Republican.

This set of primaries is already giving everyone the feeling of a 2015 rerun, with Donald Trump dominating the media’s agenda. Even if journalists can’t stand Trump, they inevitably end up throwing nasty barbs at every Republican in the race. That’s why they shouldn’t be allowed to moderate debates, because they are attack dogs. They can't help but bite.

Rewind to the infamous CNBC Republican debate on October 28,2015, where moderator John Harwood openly mocked Trump as a cartoon: “Let's be honest. Is this a comic book version of a Presidential campaign?” The ratings were a record for CNBC – 14 million viewers – but their performance was embarrassing.

Trump wasn’t the only target. Harwood also asked Jeb Bush: “Ben Bernanke, who was appointed Fed chairman by your brother, recently wrote a book in which he said he no longer considers himself a Republican, because the Republican Party has given in to know-nothingism. Is that why you're having a difficult time in this race?”

Other CNBC anchors joined in. Carl Quintanilla tagged Marco Rubio: “You're skipping more votes than any senator to run for president. Why not slow down, get a few more things done first, or least finish what you start?” And: “So when the [Fort Lauderdale] Sun-Sentinel says Rubio should resign, not rip us off, when they say Floridians sent you to Washington to do a job, when they say you act like you hate your job, do you?”

Becky Quick hammered Carly Fiorina: “You are running for president because of your record running Hewlett-Packard. But the stock market is usually a fair indicator of the performance of a CEO, and the market was not kind to you. Someone who invested a dollar in your company the day you took office had lost half of the dollar by the day you left....I just wonder, in terms of all of that -- you know, we look back, your board fired you. I just wondered why you think we should hire you now.”

The CNBC moderators acted less like journalists and more like talk-radio hosts or Clinton campaign operatives. On stage, Ted Cruz ably described the CNBC venom: “Donald Trump, are you a comic-book villain. Ben Carson, can you do math? John Kasich, can you insult those two people over here? Marco Rubio, will you resign? Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen?”

What was supposed to be a substantive debate about the many issues plaguing the American economy was scrapped so the so-called moderators could throw one Democratic talking point after another. It was widely panned. Even liberal Vanity Fair magazine chronicled “How CNBC Lost Its Own GOP Debate.”

In The Wall Street Journal editorial pages, William McGurn wrote: “The great irony here is that it was precisely CNBC’s bias that made for such a good evening for Republicans. Republicans are always complaining about the media double standard—and last Wednesday night, CNBC gave millions of Americans the full monty.”

No Republican voter should want a repeat of John Harwood or Lyin' Brian Williams or George Stephanopoulos as a besmirching moderator.