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 InsleeO'Rourke ends presidential bid Sunrise Movement organizer: Sanders, Warren boast strongest climate change plans Overnight Energy: Farmers say EPA reneged on ethanol deal | EPA scrubs senators' quotes from controversial ethanol announcement | Perry unsure if he'll comply with subpoena | John Kerry criticizes lack of climate talk at debate 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 PaulTrump: 'Everybody knows who the whistleblower is' Johnson opens door to subpoenaing whistleblower, Schiff, Bidens Senate GOP waves Trump off early motion to dismiss impeachment charges MORE and Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Conway spars with Wallace on whether White House will cooperate with impeachment inquiry after formal vote Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' 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 SchatzCongress should lift the ban on medical cannabis access for military veterans Booker introduces bill banning facial recognition tech in public housing Senate Democrat: Colleague was working on fantasy football trade instead of listening to Schumer 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.