News & Politics

Was the Elizabeth Warren 'Viral Moment' at LGBTQ Town Hall a Setup?

Was the Elizabeth Warren 'Viral Moment' at LGBTQ Town Hall a Setup?
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaks Thursday, Sept. 12, 2019, during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by ABC at Texas Southern University in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Elizabeth Warren had one of those moments a presidential candidate dreams of during the LGBTQ town hall on Thursday. A concerned citizen from the audience approached the microphone and asked her an earnest question.

“Let’s say you’re on the campaign trail… and a supporter approaches you and says, ‘Senator, I am old-fashioned, and my faith teaches me that marriage is between one man and one woman.’ What is your response?”

Fox News:

“Well, I’m going to assume it’s a guy who said that,” Warren told Cox, drawing laughter from the audience. “And I’m going to say, ‘Then just marry one woman.'”

After more laughter and applause, Warren let loose an apparent jab at the hypothetical supporters. “Assuming you can find one,” she quipped, turning and rubbing her hands together.

Yeah! Stick it to those dirty Christians! Go! Go! Go!

Needless to say, the left erupted in an avalanche of praise and excitement

Online, Warren experienced an outpouring of support. “Elizabeth Warren had a perfect zinger at CNN’s LGBTQ town hall when asked about gay marriage,” New York Magazine declared on Friday.

The video of the exchange went viral and Warren basked in the warm glow of adoration.

There’s only one problem with this: the exchange with the audience member could very well have been staged. The “concerned citizen” asking the question, Morgan Cox, was on the board of directors of the Human Rights Campaign — one of the co-hosts of the town hall with CNN.

And Cox also happens to be a supporter of… you guessed it — Elizabeth Warren.

Donor data also revealed that a man matching Cox’s profile donated at least $5,400 to Warren in 2017 and 2018: A Morgan Cox III from Plano, Texas, gave Warren $2,700 to Warren in July of 2017, $1,000 in April of 2018, and another $1,700 that same April.

When Cox was introduced on Thursday, CNN described him as someone tied to a “real estate investment firm in Dallas, Texas.” Both Cox’s Linkedin profile and HRC’s website say he’s based in Plano, Texas. His Linkedin profile also notes that he works as a partner at Marquis Group, a real estate firm based in Texas.

The way CNN introduced him suggests that the network, too, might have been privy to the setup. Are we to believe that when CNN described him as someone who worked at a “real estate investment firm in Dallas, Texas,” that they didn’t know he was a board member of their c-sponsor HRC?

There’s nothing illegal in this, of course. It’s a question of honesty and transparency. Cox should have been introduced as an HRC board member. If he had been, the question he asked would have taken on an entirely different flavor. HRC has been at war with Christian conservatives over several issues, and the question could have been seen as belittling the beliefs of the Christian right. Needless to say, that would not have made Warren look good.

The bottom line is that candidates should be above this kind of trickery. If they have to resort to canned questions and answers, what’s the point of having an open forum like a town hall? Perhaps there were others in the audience who actually had a legitimate, unscripted question to ask. I know that I’d feel cheated if I found out that Elizabeth Warren had spent time putting on a Kabuki play for the TV audience.