The reviews are in from last night’s CBS South Carolina debate and the widely held consensus appears to be that the network flubbed it from start to finish.
Mediaite claims, “The network received criticism for its handling of the debate, the messiness of the exchanges, and the type of questions asked.” Yeah, that just about covers everything.
In truth, it was a fiasco for CBS anchors Norah O’Donnell and Gayle King, who couldn’t get control of the candidates or the other moderators, Face the Nation senior foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Brennan, chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett and 60 Minutes correspondent Bill Whitaker.
It wasn’t Twitter trolls who had the harshest things to say about CBS and the moderators. It was fellow journalists who appeared to find the entertainment value of the show lacking.
— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) February 26, 2020
Does CBS have a buzzer or something to organize this??? What’s going on?
— Mika Brzezinski (@morningmika) February 26, 2020
The Daily Show made fun of the constant, irritating crosstalk.
MODERATOR: The next question is for—
EVERY CANDIDATE ON STAGE: https://t.co/UKOmoqxmMR
— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) February 26, 2020
Biden seemed the most frustrated with the free-for-all format.
Former Vice President Joe Biden in particular spoke over moderators attempting to cut him off on several occasions, insisting, “I am not out of time. You spoke over time, and I’m going to talk” and later asking, “Can we just speak up when we want to? Is that the idea?”
Later, as Biden attempted to break in again, moderator Gayle King quipped, “I promise, Mr. Vice President, we are going to get to you,” with Biden responding, “You keep promising me that, but you never get to me.”
Brian Stelter gave the inside scoop on what other network debate veterans were saying.
Debates are hard. TV news rivalries are hardcore. That said, debate pros at other TV networks are exchanging messages calling this a "disaster," a "nightmare" and worse
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) February 26, 2020
Candidates need to be treated like little children. They need to be told when they can speak, when they should shut up, when they can go potty, etc. But really, CBS didn’t have a clue.
Maybe CBS’s plan here is to run a debate so poorly, all the candidates on stage at least look more competent than CBS
If so, mission accomplished
— Buck Sexton (@BuckSexton) February 26, 2020
Question on soda bans before a single question on coronavirus… Well done CBS. Well done.
— Charlie Sykes (@SykesCharlie) February 26, 2020
In fact, according to the New York Times, it was 83 minutes into the debate before the moderators got around to a question on the coronavirus.
O’Donnell and King are journalists, not referees. With at least five candidates on the stage in total desperation mode, it was bound to be a slugfest from the start. The moderators never knew what hit them. They were clueless. Perhaps they were expecting a nice dignified debate where the candidates played by the Marquess of Queensbury rules and everyone was polite, well-mannered, and well-behaved.
Instead, King and O’Donnell got a full-on Sharks vs. Jets street brawl where the only rule was hit first and ask questions later and the only goal was survival.
Were you not entertained?