Wednesday night’s Republican Town Hall hosted by CNN was an advertisement for the GOP agenda and their talking points, simply disguised as a Town Hall that would question the candidates on policy issues.
It was an incredibly embarrassing affair—host Anderson Cooper threw softball after softball question at Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz, each query intended to humanize the candidates rather than ask them anything substantive or difficult about their stances on important issues.
There were very few follow up questions (and those that Cooper did pose hardly challenged the candidates in any way), and no insertion of any sort of facts into the mix (although those are something Republicans are generally allergic to). Cooper entirely forfeited his job as a moderator, allowing many incorrect, misleading GOP talking points to continue unimpeded.
He began by asking Rubio a few policy questions, but then veered into easy terrain with queries such as “On a personal basis, have you ever felt the sting the racism?” and "If you are elected president, would you still coach your son in football?"
When he questioned Rubio on Republican obstructionism concerning Obama nominating a new Supreme Court Justice, Rubio incorrectly stated that, “There is now an 80 year precedent on this that in the last year of President's term, the Senate usually doesn't move forward… the Supreme Court can function with eight Justices.”
Instead of informing Rubio that, no, there is precedent because a Senate (with a Democratic majority!) confirmed Reagan’s nomination of Anthony Kennedy to the Supreme Court during an election year (1988), all Cooper said was that, “President Obama just yesterday said, look, there's nothing in the Constitution that says you can't [nominate a justice].”
It’s obvious that the Constitution states the president can nominate a justice during any time of his presidency, and it’s not just Obama who has said that. Cooper, if he were performing his job, should have challenged Rubio with actual facts on historical Supreme Court nominations, noting that for all six vacancies that have popped up during election years since 1900, all those vacancies were filled—but he said nothing.
Cooper then asked one of the most obsequious questions imaginable: “You're obviously very accomplished. Did you always know you wanted to do public service?”
If Cooper had ever asked anything of the sort to Hillary Clinton or even Bernie Sanders, he would have faced enormous, vitriolic backlash from conservative media who would have complained incessantly about “liberal bias.”
Yet for Rubio, such a fawning question was totally fine.
This level of questioning continued as he asked “When did you know that (your wife) Jeannette was the woman for you?” followed by questions about his color-blindness, his son playing football, and his affinity for EDM.
It was nothing short of pathetic.
The same treatment was given for Ted Cruz. Cooper, as a gay, married man, sat quietly as Cruz ranted on about the “tragic” ruling by the Supreme Court on gay marriage and how it was “fundamentally illegitimate,” never once daring to question his bigotry.
At one point, Cooper became a parody of himself as he actually asked Cruz what his favorite musical and cocktail was.
Eventually, the hilarious hashtag #AndersonCooperQuestions popped up on Twitter, as users began to tweet increasingly banal, prosaic questions that paralleled the level of difficulty Cooper was giving the Republicans.
Although the Town Hall was an enormous waste of time for Americans watching, Cooper’s moderation would still not be a huge issue if he had given the same treatment to Democratic candidates during their Town Hall on Feb. 4.
However, that Town Hall was a completely different story. Cooper gave very tough questions to both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, and many from a conservative rather than liberal perspective.
He probed Clinton on the issue of her Wall Street donations and speaking fees (sparking enormous controversy for the Clinton camp after he provided the $675,000 figure for her Goldman Sachs’s speeches), and he questioned Sanders about increasing taxes on the middle class, his inexperience with foreign policy, and followed up multiple times on almost every answer Sanders gave.
This is the actual job of a moderator, but we saw no signs of it during his conversations with the Republicans. The question of why this occurred can be attributed to mainstream media bias—CNN, though it claims to be impartial, often supports the conservative point of view and clearly does not allow its moderator to heavily question conservative candidates.
We saw the ramifications of a rogue moderator who dared to question a Republican back in 2012. Candy Crowley, who moderated a presidential debate hosted by CNN, had the audacity to fact-check Mitt Romney on stage. She was banned by CNN from moderating a debate ever again after subsequent Republican backlash.
Regardless of mainstream media bias, Anderson Cooper is a respected journalist and should be held to a higher standard than the deferential display he showed on Wednesday.
Banner / Thumbnail : Reuters