As America’s pundits and newspapers rushed to pronounce the winners and losers of Tuesday night’s 2020 Democratic presidential debate, progressives argued the event’s moderators deserve to be placed in the latter category for framing healthcare questions around insurance industry talking points, hand-wringing about “demonizing” rich people, and failing to ask a single question about the greatest existential threat facing humanity.
While they completely ignored the climate crisis, the event’s moderators—Erin Burnett and Anderson Cooper of CNN and Marc Lacey of the New York Times—managed to find time at the very end of the debate to ask a question that infuriated environmentalists who were waiting all night for the planetary emergency to take center stage.
“The mainstream media’s continuing bizarre fetish for bipartisanship is the new climate denial. What an absolute joke.”
—Brian Kahn, Earther
“Last week, Ellen DeGeneres was criticized after she and former President George W. Bush were seen laughing together at a football game. Ellen defended their friendship, saying, we’re all different and I think that we’ve forgotten that that’s OK that we’re all different,” said Burnett. “So in that spirit, we’d like you to tell us about a friendship that you’ve had that would surprise us and what impact it’s had on you and your beliefs.”
The question set off a flood of outrage.
“THEY ASKED A QUESTION ABOUT ELLEN AND GEORGE BUSH BUT NOT CLIMATE CHANGE. I AM LOSING MY GODDAMN MIND,” Earther managing editor Brian Kahn tweeted. “CNN thought it was more important to use Ellen hanging out with a war criminal as a jumping off point to ask about bipartisan friendships than ask about the largest existential threat facing humanity.”
“The mainstream media’s continuing bizarre fetish for bipartisanship is the new climate denial,” Kahn added. “What an absolute joke.”
Climate researcher Leah Stokes called the lack of climate questions “complete irresponsibility.”
“Do you not understand that our house is on fire, New York Times and CNN? Do you not understand the stakes?” Stokes wrote. “Shame on you.”
The Ellen question capped off an event progressives said was dominated by corporate-friendly framing of major issues, healthcare being the most glaring example.
In one of the first questions of the night, Lacey of the Times asked Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) whether she would “raise taxes on the middle class to pay for” Medicare for All.
Critics were quick to point out that a similar version of that same question has been asked in every previous debate, and on each occasion moderators have failed to acknowledge that Medicare for All would also eliminate co-pays, premiums, and deductibles, resulting in lower overall costs for most Americans.
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