CNN catches heat for asking candidates about Ellen, Bush friendship at debate

CNN catches heat for asking candidates about Ellen, Bush friendship at debate
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CNN faced a storm of criticism on social media Tuesday night after the network ended its Democratic primary debate with moderator Anderson Cooper asking about a controversy surrounding TV host Ellen DeGeneres.

The final question of the night focused on DeGeneres' recent social media controversy surrounding a photo taken of her laughing alongside former President George W. Bush at a Dallas Cowboys game. DeGeneres was criticized by members of the LGBTQ community on social media over the picture due to Bush's views on gay marriage as well as the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Cooper, CNN and debate co-host The New York Times were widely mocked by debate watchers and current and former Democratic presidential contenders over the question, which many said had been given greater prominence than other issues that were not mentioned by debate moderators, such as climate change.

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"2 hours and 20 minutes into tonight’s #DemDebate and still not a single question on the climate crisis from @CNN @nytimes @DNC," tweeted the Sunrise Movement, an environmental activist group that supports the Green New Deal. "Just a livable future for our generation at stake. Guess there’s no need to ask what the next President of the United States is gonna do about it."

"Three hours and no questions tonight about climate, housing, or immigration. Climate change is an existential threat. America has a housing crisis. Children are still in cages at our border," tweeted former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, who was onstage Tuesday night.

"But you know, Ellen," he added.

Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert Inslee121 University of Washington students test positive for coronavirus Barr praises Seattle police chief as officers clear protest zone OVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats chart course to 'solving the climate crisis' by 2050 | Commerce Department led 'flawed process' on Sharpiegate, watchdog finds | EPA to end policy suspending pollution monitoring by end of summer MORE (D), who launched a campaign for president earlier this year that was focused on the issue of climate change before dropping out when he did not meet debate polling thresholds, was also criticized the night's questions.

"This is the existential crisis of our time. Not one single question, and that’s completely inexcusable," he tweeted.

Kerri Talbot, an activist working with the Immigration Hub, added that immigration was another issue ignored by debate moderators in favor of questions about which Republicans the Democrats onstage had worked with in the past.

"So now we know these candidates are unusually friendly with a trucker named Fred, a black woman, Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard Paul'Live with it' is the new GOP response to COVID — but no, we can't do that Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads How conservative conspiracy theories are deepening America's political divide MORE and Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyMore than two dozen former prosecutors, judges, active trial lawyers support DOJ decision to dismiss Michael Flynn case Sunday shows preview: As states loosen social distancing restrictions, lawmakers address dwindling state budgets John Ratcliffe is the right choice for director of national intelligence — and for America MORE. Y ademas, nada on immigration or climate," she tweeted.

A former spokesperson for President Obama, Tommy Vietor, was more succinct in his outrage: "NO. NO YOU ARE NOT CLOSING WITH AN ELLEN QUESTION."

"My answer to this Ellen question is that Republicans are trying to take your health care away," tweeted Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzCensus workers prepare to go door-knocking in pandemic Data shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs Overnight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police MORE (D-Hawaii).

"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," tweeted Earther founder Brian Kahn.

CNN representatives did not immediately return a request for comment from The Hill on Tuesday evening.