The second night of NBC’s two-day, technical-issue plagued Democratic debate was panned by critics as frenzied and unorganized, with much of the blame being placed at the feet of its me-first moderator, Chuck Todd.
DePauw University professor and media critic Jeffrey McCall told Fox News that it “was not a debate and not even a good dueling news conference,” but instead an “unstructured free-for-all that broke no new ground.”
“It featured moderators who were not up to the task in terms of setting direction for content and certainly not for managing the mob of candidates,” McCall said. “NBC clearly had no structure for this tiresome spectacle.”
Wednesday’s opening night was inundated with technical and audio issues and the second edition featured even more embarrassing moments for the Peacock Network. The gaffes started with another audio glitch when candidates took the stage to stone silence during the pre-debate show on MSNBC.
“Do we have any audio from the room or is this happening in absolute silence?” MSNBC Brian Williams asked the control room on live TV.
"NBC clearly had no structure for this tiresome spectacle."
Things weren’t much better once the debate actually started, and it got particularly awkward when Todd and far-left opinion host Rachel Maddow took the reins at the midway point. The banter between Todd and Maddow resulted in The Ringer editor-at-large Bryan Curtis and media guru David Shoemaker comparing their relationship to stars of a “buddy cop movie” and people “auditioning for morning television” on “The Press Box” podcast.
Maddow – whose presence alone was controversial as debate moderators are typically nonpartisan journalists – kicked off her appearance by scolding the crowd, informing attendees that “the less audience reaction there is, the more time” candidates will have to speak as Todd playfully recreated the “prayer hands” emoji.
Once they got around to asking questions, Maddow attempted to toss it to Lester Holt in the audience — but the “Nightly News” anchor wasn’t in position, leading to uncomfortable silence before the liberal pundit laughed off the mistake as a “fake out.”
Todd’s performance was widely panned by people on both sides of the aisle, with the “Meet the Press” host being widely criticized for expecting short answers to long questions. Shareblue Media senior writer Oliver Willis called Todd “the worst” and Slate published a story headlined, “It was almost a good debate until Chuck Todd mucked it up.”
Slate’s Justin Peters nicknamed the NBC News host “logorrheic Chuck Todd” and labeled him the event’s biggest loser.
“There is no reason to bring presidential candidates together for a ‘debate’ and then try to force them into one or two-word answers,” McCall said. “Todd was not so much interested in having the candidates differentiate themselves as to place himself in the middle of the event. The best debate moderators blend in seamlessly and only gently referee when needed. Todd wanted to be part of the show.”
Media Research Center vice president Dan Gainor told Fox News that viewers “wanted to hear more from the candidates and less from Chuck Todd,” during the two-night debate.
“He's not running for president, though sometimes I think [Chuck Todd] needs to be reminded of that."
“He's not running for president, though sometimes I think he needs to be reminded of that,” Gainor said.
Ironically, NBC’s own “Nightly News” tweeted a clip of Todd rushing candidates after asking a lengthy question — a moment that resulted in widespread criticism.
The New York Times TV critic James Poniewozik tweeted, “For someone who loves one-word answers, Chuck Todd asks long questions.”
Even liberal “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert made fun of Todd, putting on a faux goatee and begging “please don’t talk too much, OK? You’re not Chuck Todd, I am.”
Meanwhile, NBC was also accused of playing favorites, as presidential candidate Andrew Yang said his microphone was "not on" when he wanted to speak at various points of debate. It’s unclear if this was another technical issue.
NBC News did not immediately respond to Fox News for comment.
The sister of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-HI, even accused the liberal network of favoring Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass, who received a whopping five questions within the first 30 minutes of Wednesday night's debate.
"It's clear who MSNBC wants to be president: Elizabeth Warren," Vrindavan Gabbard wrote on the congresswoman's Twitter account.
“Any such forum that allows a few candidates to talk more than triple the amount of time for several other candidates is just not being done fairly,” McCall said.
Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.