The Truth About GOP Debate Questions

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

With last night's final Republican debate before the Super Tuesday primaries in March, conservative media outlets wasted little time before lodging their knee-jerk complaints about how unfair the questions were.

The Fox News talking point this morning was feigning shock that CNN moderator John King did not ask the candidates about rising gas prices, a topic Fox is now fervently devoted to. The lack of gas pump question was an obvious sign of "media bias":

It's all a conspiracy!

This robotic ritual is beyond tiresome. But as debate season winds down it's worth noting how little validity there is to the endless debate protests.

For instance, even without a direct question about gas prices last night, candidates mentioned the topic six times during the debate. And of course, they could have mentioned it 16 times, or 26 times if they wanted. But they did not. (Note: There were more than 30 debate references to earmarks last night, but only eight references to jobs.)

We've seen this non-stop carping throughout the primary season. The question aren't fair. The questions are too liberal. Moderators asked the wrong questions. They omitted obvious questions. The questions were asked after consulting Democrats. On and on the list of imaginary slights has gone as conservative media outlets produce content designed to delight their media-bashing consumers.

But have the questions really been so left-wing? Have they really been designed to make Republicans look bad?

New York University professor Jay Rosen recently had his journalism students catalog the more than 800 questions that have been asked during the GOP debate season.

Here were the results:

CATEGORY

# Qs asked

% of total

Improving the economy and creating jobs

230

27%

The candidates backgrounds and records

230

27%

Fixing government and reducing the debt

217

26%

Campaign strategy and maneuvering

113

12%

"How conservative are you?"

109

13%

Foreign Policy

105

13%

National security and use of the military

80

10%

Immigration

63

8%

Health Care

55

7%

Social issues: abortion and gay rights

46

5%

Science and technology (including space and climate)

44

5%

Safety net: Medicare, Medicaid, social security, unemployment

36

4%

Religion

24

3%

Education

12

1.40%

Human interest fluff

12

1.40%

Restoring American Greatness

9

1%

Unclassified

10

1%

So much for Eric Bolling's claim that liberal moderators don't want to ask about jobs because it represents an "Achilles' heel" for Obama.

In fact, you can see that a vast majority of the debate questions have either been about the candidates' background, fixing the government/reducing the debt, or improving the economy/creating jobs. In other words, a vast majority of the questions have been right in the Republican wheel house.

And yet the whining remains incessant as Fox News hosts this morning suggested CNN's moderator was working in tandem with the Obama White House last night.

UPDATED: It turns out John King did ask about gas prices last night [emphasis added]:

The American people often don't pay much attention to what's going on in the world until they have to, but this is an issue, this confrontation with Iran that is partly responsible for what we have seen daily at the gas pump. Prices going up and going up and going up. So I want -- Governor Romney come into the conversation, we'll continue it with everyone at the table. As we have this showdown, confrontation, call it what you will with Iran. Should our leadership, including the current president of the United States and the four gentleman here with me tonight, be prepared to look the American people in the eye and say -- and I want to hear everybody's plans, over the long run I think I can bring down the price of gasoline, or I can't if that's your plan.

But on Fox this morning, hosts were sure liberal "bias" prevented the question from being asked.


Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Eric Bolling
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