CNBC moderators defend debate amid criticism

A pair of CNBC moderators defended the network's handling of Wednesday night's Republican presidential debate amid a flurry of criticism from the candidates and party leaders. 

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"There were a lot of conservatives before the debate who were urging them to go hard after the media, and that's what they did," moderator John Harwood said during an interview late Wednesday night on MSNBC's "Hardball." 
 
"Some of those questions, especially considering the prescriptions they are offering, are questions that feel hostile to those Republican candidates.” 
 
It became clear that the party had turned against the network moments after the debate, when Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus released a pointed statement that concluded "CNBC should be ashamed of how this debate was handled."
 
Danny Diaz, the campaign manager for former Gov. Jeb Bush (Fla.), admitted after the debate that he confronted a CNBC official about the amount of airtime Bush received. Bush spoke for the shortest amount of time, according to counts by multiple media outlets.
 
 
Harwood noted he saw many conservatives circulating articles on Twitter "saying that they were anticipating a debate that was unfair to Republicans."
 
The conservative blog The Federalist posted a story on the eve of the event that specifically bashed Harwood as too liberal to moderate a debate, and GOP front-runner Donald Trump tweeted on Wednesday that he was expecting an "unfair debate."
 
Harwood and fellow moderator Sharon Epperson criticized the candidates for obfuscating the facts. They specifically mentioned Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioAna Navarro lashes out at Rubio for calling outrage over Trump's 'go back' tweet 'self righteous' US-Saudi Arabia policy needs a dose of 'realpolitik' Media cried wolf: Calling every Republican a racist lost its bite MORE's (Fla.) accusation that Harwood mischaracterized his tax plan, which Harwood said was not true, as well as Trump telling moderator Becky Quick that he had never criticized Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg when the criticism is included on his campaign site.
 
"They are hoping that people don’t really care about the facts and I think they are wrong about that," Epperson said.
 
"Hardball" host Chris Matthews came to the moderators' defense to close the interview, calling the pair "totally straight reporters who had to take the crap” from candidates.
 
The candidates and moderators mixed it up throughout the debate, with Cruz leading the charge by lamenting that "The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media."
 
"You look at the questions: Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpLiz Cheney: 'Send her back' chant 'inappropriate' but not about race, gender Booker: Trump is 'worse than a racist' Top Democrat insists country hasn't moved on from Mueller MORE, are you a comic book villain? Ben Carson, can you do math? John Kasich, can you insult those two people over here? Marco Rubio, why don't you resign? Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen? How about talking about the substantive issues the people care about?” he added.