Tuesday’s Republican debate was another rigged debate, in which Republicans incessant whining about actual questions from journalists drove CNN to game the ref with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.
While this seems absurdly unfair, given that Democrats don’t demand liberals moderate their debates and that CNN’s mid-game punditry was stocked with hardcore conservatives like Amanda Carpenter and S.E. Cupp, it’s actually just another step toward big tent fail for Republicans.
Media Matters compiled the facts documenting various media outlets calling out CNN for including the “highly partisan” host:
Media outlets have called out CNN for selecting conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt as a moderator of the December 15 Republican primary debate, noting that the inclusion of this “highly […] partisan” conservative media figure is the result of Republican Party “carping.” The Republican National Committee (RNC) has pressured networks to include conservative media figures as debate moderators, a move received with criticism from former debate moderators and network executives.
CNN Announces That Hugh Hewitt Will Moderate The Last Republican Debate Of 2015
CNN: Hugh Hewitt Will Join Wolf Blitzer As Questioner In Last GOP Debate Of The Year. CNN announced on December 13 that conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt would be joining CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and Dana Bash as moderators of the last GOP primary debate of 2015, held in Las Vegas, Nevada. [CNN, 12/13/15]
Media Outlets Highlight How Hewitt’s Inclusion Reflects GOP Pressure On The Networks
NPR: CNN “Agree[d] To The RNC’s Hardball Play” To “Get More Control Of The Debates” By Including Hugh Hewitt. On the December 15 edition of NPR’s All Things Considered, host Audie Cornish explained that “The presence of Hugh Hewitt came out of a demand by the Republican Party to change the way the debates are conducted.” The segment featured Sean Spicer, a chief strategist for the RNC, who said, “The party needed to get more in control of the debates,” which included the demand for conservative moderators. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik called the demand “a policy without precedent” and reported that CNN “did agree to the RNC’s hardball play”:
The strategic fail here is that Republicans can’t compete without rigging the game. They aren’t moderating their message to meet mainstream America; instead, they’re forcing mainstream outlets to bend far to the right in order to appease Republican candidates who can’t compete without gaming the ref.
The undercard debate was full of crazy, from Lindsey Graham close to tears over missing George W. Bush and claiming he would keep us safe as if 9/11 never happened, all the while fear mongering repeatedly that ISIL was coming to get your family to Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum proving just how out of the mainstream Republicans really are.
All of these primary debates are tape for the Democrats to use against the eventual Republican nominee and it won’t be pretty.
It’s laughable that CNN bowed to Republican whining, but it’s also bad news for Republicans. They need to be competing in the market that is, not the market that they wish existed.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.