CNBC Debate Moderators Face Backlash After 3rd GOP Presidential Debate

Candidates seemed to spar more with the moderators than each other.

ByABC News
October 29, 2015, 8:38 AM

— -- After a debate in which the candidates seemed to spend more time sparring with the moderators than with each other, the chairman of the Republican National Committee declared that CNBC, the host network, “should be ashamed.”

“One of the great things about our party is that we are able to have a dynamic exchange about which solutions will secure a prosperous future, and I will fight to ensure future debates allow for a more robust exchange,” RNC chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement shortly after the more than two hour debate, in Boulder, Colorado.

In response, CNBC vice president of communications Brian Steel said, “People who want to be president of the United States should be able to answer tough questions.”

The three main moderators -- CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla, Becky Quick and John Harwood -- posed a series of pointed and sometimes contentious questions to the 10 candidates who participated in the third debate of the GOP presidential primary season. And the candidates did not hide their contempt.

“The questions asked in this debate illustrate why the American people don't trust the media,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said. “This is not a cage match. Donald Trump, are you a comic book villain? Marco Rubio, why don't you resign? Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen?”

Cruz added, “How about talking about the substantive issues?”

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also pounced after former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was asked about fantasy sports and gambling.

“Are we really talking about getting government involved in fantasy football?” Christie asked. “Wait a second, we have $19 trillion in debt, people out of work, we have ISIS and Al Qaeda attacking us and we're talking about fantasy football? Can we stop?”

Christie later sparred with moderator Harwood, quipping, “No, John, do you want me to answer or do you want to answer? Because -- I got to tell you the truth, even in New Jersey what you're doing is called rude.”

Several other candidates, including former neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, also tangled with the moderators.

When asked a question about serving on the board of a company that promoted gay rights, Carson shot back: “Obviously, you don’t understand my views on homosexuality.”

Bush, not to mention his donors, was counting on this debate to bolster his struggling campaign and aides said they believed their candidate was slighted.

An aide to Bush said campaign manager Danny Diaz “voiced our concerns regarding a poorly managed debate. “

Diaz told ABC News: “We were afforded very little time and highlighted it,” and an aide added that it was “a poorly managed debate.”

Bush, himself, complained about the time in an interview with CNN after the debate.

“I was asked three questions, I think, or something like that,” Bush said. “It was not a fair debate in that regard.”

He added that he wished he had been on the receiving end of questions about issues like entitlement reform and the national debt.

“I got fantasy football,” Bush said. “You know, that's important I guess but probably not as important as other things.”