Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) told reporters on Thursday that ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos is a “partisan Democrat” who is “actively supporting” former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
“Of course not,” Cruz replied on Thursday when asked if Stephanopoulos should be hosting any debates in 2016. “Debates should not be moderated by partisan Democrats who are actively supporting one of the candidates.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) also said that Stephanopoulos shouldn’t be allowed to host any debates in 2016.
“It’s impossible to divorce yourself from that, even if you try,” Paul said of Stephanopoulos’ Clinton Foundation donations, according to the New York Times. “I just think it’s really, really hard because he’s been there, so close to them, that there would be a conflict of interest if he tried to be a moderator of any sort.”
Stephanopoulos on Thursday afternoon, after revelations he donated $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation, decided to recuse himself from the 2016 GOP presidential primary debates. It’s assumed as well that Stephanopoulos will not be allowed to host any general election debates either.
Conn Carroll, the communications director for Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), added via Twitter that he will not be allowing his boss to appear on any ABC News programming until Stephanopoulos recuses himself from all 2016 presidential campaign coverage—not just debates.
“I’m not letting my boss go on @ABC until @GStephanopoulos recuses himself from all 2016 coverage,” Carroll Tweeted.
“I will ultimately make the final decision about each interview request we receive,” Sen. Lee said in a statement. “But I am very concerned about how George’s donations to the Clintons calls into question his journalistic objectivity. You don’t give $75,000 to an organization and then forget to mention it when you interview a person who is questioning that organization. This fact will weigh heavily as I consider future media requests from ABC News.”
Every time Stephanopoulos has been in or around a political debate since 2012, there have been serious concerns with the way it’s been handled. In the 2012 GOP presidential primaries, Stephanopoulos created the “war on women” theme by asking about contraception—inserting the talking point into the debate when nobody was discussing such issues. The line of questioning from Stephanopoulos was obviously later used by President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign as a primary line of attack against GOP nominee Mitt Romney.
Then, in the 2014 election cycle, as former Sen. Scott Brown was closing in on incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Stephanopoulos was scheduled to host the final debate alongside WMUR’s James Pindell. Pindell made a false attack against Brown—for which he later apologized on live television—which made it look like Brown didn’t know New Hampshire geography. Brown was actually correct. Even though Pindell apologized, Stephanopoulos refused to also apologize for the false attack that occurred in the middle of the debate of which he was chief moderator.
Stephanopoulos, as Breitbart News had revealed leading up to the debate, had appeared at a Bill Clinton re-election event alongside Shaheen when she served in the statehouse in New Hampshire—in his capacity as a representative of Clinton’s during the time when he served in the Clinton White House. He also had longtime ties to a top Shaheen campaign operative.
It’s unclear if ABC News will continue to allow Stephanopoulos to participate in any 2016 election coverage, or if they’ll just whitewash this with a GOP primary debate recusal.