Presidential Debate Moderators Show Bias in Leading Questions
by Patrick Huang on Friday, November 20th, 2015
The First Amendment to the United States’ Constitution grants Americans freedom of speech and freedom of the press. These rights often lead the media to ask hard-hitting and often controversial questions. Specifically, in the recent presidential debates the media has asked presidential candidates tough questions about their policies and opinions. According to CNN, Donald Trump deemed some of the media’s questions “ridiculous”.
In these presidential debates, many have become suspicious of the media and debate moderators’ intentions. Are there biased moderators who ask candidates irrelevant or difficult questions on purpose? If so, what party are they from and how obvious is their bias?
Arguably the most controversial presidential debate yet was the October 28th Republican debate. In this debate, hosted by CNBC, Republican candidates publicly criticized the moderators’ poor choice of questions and avoiding important topics.
At one point during the debate, moderators asked Carly Fiorina if there was anything she would like to say to Donald Trump regarding his comments on her physical appearance. In this case, the candidates’ outrage is justified. Not only did this question have no political relevance, but the question also encouraged hostility between candidates Trump and Fiorina.
Moderators also asked Donald Trump whether or not his run “was a comic book version of a presidential campaign,” and if other candidates think Trump had the “the moral authority” to become president. These questions were completely unnecessary. Their answers did not offer insight into any candidate’s character or ideas but simply insulted and aggressively targeted candidates.
As a result of the moderators’ unwarranted questions, the candidates were rightly furious. CNN cites republican candidate and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, pointed out that “[the debate] is not a cage match” between candidates. Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, agrees and plans to stand up against debate moderators because “[he’s] not going to allow them to ask stupid questions.”
If you previously thought the issue of biases in the media was exaggerated, think again. CNN again quotes Cruz, stating that moderators’ biased questions are an undoubted advantage for Democratic candidates. In fact, he says, the mainstream media may as well be the “ultimate super PAC” for Democrats. Looking at the difference in treatment of republican and democratic candidates in recent debates, there is definite ground to support Cruz’s super PAC “theory.”
From the first Democratic debate, it is clear that democratic candidates experienced nowhere close to the same bias from moderators as republican candidates. Although Hillary Clinton’s email scandal did become the subject of many questions, tension between candidates and moderators never escalated.
In fact, Bernie Sanders defended Clinton, pleading, according to CNN, “enough of the emails, let’s talk about the real issues facing America.” The questions in the Democratic debate, which was hosted by CNN and Facebook, offered candidates numerous opportunities to express their ideas and opinions without attacking other candidates.
Whether intended or not, bias in the media and debates is unnecessary and unjust. The media has a duty to fulfill: communicate objectively with the general public. However, political bias, and the close-mindedness associated with it, can mislead the public with incorrect information.
In the coming year, the struggle between Republicans and Democrats will become even fiercer. Americans will want to choose the best candidate, so facts will be checked and opinions will be carefully analyzed. With the fate of our nation at stake, the media’s bias cannot persist in its current ways.
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