Long-Overdue Vigilance on Moderators

By L. Brent Bozell III and Tim Graham | November 4, 2015 | 10:45 AM EST

CNBC hosted an acrimonious back-and-forth with the Republican presidential hopefuls on Oct. 28, 2015. (AP File Photo)

The competing Republicans presidential campaigns had a meeting on November 1 to discuss their concerns with how the Republican National Committee had planned debates with the media. That’s a healthy development, considering the CNBC debate, in which liberal journalists asked one too many deliberately snide and hostile “gotcha” questions attacking the GOP candidates and the candidates exploded in anger.
      
A debate among the Republican presidential candidates is supposed to benefit Republican primary voters. The moderators would, ideally, ask questions that reflect the values and questions of GOP voters, not the hive mentality of liberal partisans.
     
To this end, Ted Cruz this weekend suggested banning anyone from moderating a GOP primary debate if they have never voted in a GOP primary. Liberal journalists developed the vapors – probably because they don’t know any colleagues who ever voted Republican.
     
The RNC’s action to drop NBC and Telemundo and whole Comcast brand from debates  is long, long overdue. It’s at least a signal that the GOP will no longer just lay back and accept this double standard. Already, you’re hearing media griping about the Republicans being against a free press if they try to exclude hostile networks. The horror!
      
But Democrats refused to debate on the Fox News Channel for their last two competitive campaigns (2008 and 2016), and nobody in the liberal media found a threat to a free press.
     
You have to go back to April 2008 to find a debate where Democrats were faced with hostile questions, when ABC hosts George Stephanopoulos and Charlie Gibson dared to ask Barack Obama one question about his ties to ex-terrorist Bill Ayers. (This was the year when the media’s debate questions to Democrats were so notoriously soft, even "Saturday Night Live" produced a parody, with a satirical Jorge Ramos asking Obama if he could fluff his pillow.)
     
Apparently that pillow-fluffing routine was no joke. That's what was expected, and any journalist who veered from the script had hell to pay.  After the Stephanopoulos-Gibson debate, their colleagues  howled with outrage. The Washington Post’s TV critic back then (Tom Shales) called it a “shoddy, despicable performance” that marked a “step downward for network news.” On MSNBC, then-anchor Keith Olbermann growled: “The campaign may have seemed dirty. It had nothing on one of the moderators of the debate tonight.”
     
So, when it’s liberal journalists antagonizing GOP candidates, the candidates are supposed to stop their whining. But when Barack Obama gets a tough question about his past, it’s “dirty” and “despicable.”
      
No matter, really. America sees through the nonsense. CNBC thoroughly humiliated itself, and anyone in the press rising to the defense of the indefensible risks the same embarrassment. Oh, and how tone deaf they are! Predictably, there are liberal journalists out there arguing that Republicans were just pretending to be upset by the nasty questions. Disgraced ex-CBS News anchor Dan Rather, on CNN on Sunday: “I think most people understand it’s part of the political game that particularly with those on the right side of the political spectrum, they’re going to attack the press because a large part of their constituency likes it.”
     
Dan Rather knows something about trying to destroy Republicans with snide and hostile “gotcha” questions. Recall him asking George H.W. Bush on national TV  the Iran-Contra “question” that “You made us hypocrites in the eyes of the world!”
     
MSNBC’s Mike Barnicle bizarrely claimed more objective media would hurt the GOP: “If the Republicans got their wish of impartial moderators, impartial reporters asking questions, the Republicans would lose one of their biggest issues, which is running against the media.”
     
He needn't worry. There won't be a day, not a single day, from here til next November, where the "objective" "news" media won't go out of their way to savage Republicans. The GOP will have plenty to discuss. If the CNBC debate is a measure, they will be very outspoken indeed.