CNN’s two-night Democratic presidential debate was predictably lampooned by the right, but the mainstream media and liberal organizations also found plenty to criticize.
Liberal viewers complained that CNN’s format did not allow articulate answers because of time restrictions, that questions were specifically designed to create tension between candidates and that the made-for-TV spectacle felt like “a gross display of cynical political theater that wasted everyone’s time.”
Candidates were frequently asked whether or not they agreed with the views of a fellow 2020 hopeful, which resulted in frequent infighting. Critics also nitpicked CNN’s topics and said there was too much buildup and moderators were too determined to enforce the network’s rules.
“It was not CNN’s finest hour,” Poynter’s Tom Jones wrote.
As a result, MSNBC pundits and the far-left network's guests have slammed CNN and its moderators at every turn.
MSNBC political analyst Jonathan Alter explained his “problem with both” of CNN’s two-night debate events was that candidates bickered over irrelevant topics.
“Prompted, by the way, by the way the questions were [asked],” MSNBC host Joy Reid chimed in before also saying CNN’s moderators set up Sen. Kamala Harris to take “a lot of hits” on the debate stage.
“It was set up by the moderator, who decided to make them fight, you know, from the time the bell rang,” Reid said of CNN’s Jake Tapper, Dana Bash and Don Lemon.
NewsBusters managing editor Curtis Houck has chronicled MSNBC’s criticism of CNN over the past few days with headlines such as “Late-Night MSNBC Cannot Stop Bashing CNN Moderators Over Format, Squabbling” and “MSNBC Panelists Trash CNN Moderators; ‘WWE’-Style Should Be Tossed ‘In the River.’”
Houck pointed out that MSNBC’s Brian Williams took “pot shots” at CNN’s moderators and similar jabs were taken by MSNBC guests including Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson.
“The clear intent was to spark fights… that seemed to be the point of the moderation,” Robinson said on Tuesday night.
“Considering how much bashing MSNBC has done of the CNN Democratic presidential debates and the moderators, it was no surprise when the late-night portion of their coverage … repeatedly bashed CNN," Houck wrote early Thursday when analyzing MSNBC's coverage of CNN's debates.
But MSNBC wasn’t the only mainstream media outlet to criticize CNN.
USA Today’s David Jackson wrote that “there was general agreement that the format was a loser,” pointing out that Lemon, Tapper and Bash often interrupted candidates throughout the debate.
A Washington Post opinion page headline simply said, “Warren and Delaney had a good night. CNN had a terrible one,” and Bloomberg’s Jonathan Bernstein wrote that “CNN moderators, again and again, employed the very worst types of questions.”
New York Magazine called CNN’s format “awful” and compared candidate introductions to something likely found in a “YMCA co-ed basketball game.” The New Yorker published a story headlined “CNN’s Non-Stop Hunt for Drama at the Democratic Debate,” in which Eric Lach shredded the event.
“CNN’s moderators—Tapper, Dana Bash, and Don Lemon—betrayed no opinions except a desire to make it personal,” he wrote.
Rolling Stone’s Ryan Bort wrote that CNN “totally botched” the health care discussion and Slate’s Ashley Feinberg declared that CNN actively made the debate “as dumb as humanly possible” with “questions that were evidently designed to produce bad answers in the short format.”
Other headlines included Slate's “How CNN botched both Democratic debates,” The Atlantic's "CNN was ill-equipped for this" and HuffPost's "CNN's movie trailer-style debate intro was too much for some people to handle."
Ironically, it was the right-leaning Washington Examiner that found itself defending the liberal CNN.
“CNN moderators did a fine job keeping the Democratic candidates focused on the task at hand: beating each other first,” Examiner columnist Jason Russell wrote in a piece titled, “CNN did just fine: It was a debate, not a rally.”