Debate Moderators Squeeze Dr. Ben Carson on Time

Ben Carson Debate CNN AP John Locher
AP/John Locher

GREENVILLE, South Carolina — In the past two GOP presidential debates, Dr. Ben Carson has received less questions—therefore less time on primetime highly-watched television to lay out his policy vision for America—than his opponents in what is a disturbingly high trend.

At the last debate before the Iowa caucuses, moderated by the Fox News Channel, Carson was asked just five questions according to an analysis of the last two debates his campaign provided to Breitbart News. He had no rebuttals, and zero follow-up questions from moderators.

Compare that with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), the winner of the caucuses, who got six questions, five rebuttals, and two follow-up questions from moderators. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who finished in third place but was polling worse than that, got seven questions from moderators, five rebuttals, and three follow-up questions from moderators. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush—who finished worse than Carson in the caucuses back in sixth place to Carson’s fourth place—got seven questions and two rebuttals, compared with zero follow-up questions from moderators. Donald Trump, the billionaire and national frontrunner who finished second in Iowa, skipped the debate before the caucuses.

It’s also worth noting that even though Carson was polling in fourth in the final Des Moines Register poll before the caucuses, he received the last question, following all the other candidates, who were polling worse than he was.

A similar Carson-squeezing trend emerged at the New Hampshire debate by ABC News the Saturday before the primary. Carson only got five questions, one rebuttal, and one follow-up question from moderators. Cruz, meanwhile, got 10 questions, no rebuttals, and five follow-up questions from moderators, while Rubio got 10 questions, five rebuttals, and five follow-up questions from moderators. Bush got eight questions and four rebuttals with no follow-up moderator questions. Trump got 12 questions, three rebuttals. and one follow-up question from moderators, while Ohio Gov. John Kasich got eight questions, two rebuttals, and zero follow-up questions. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie got seven questions, three rebuttals, and zero follow-up questions from moderators.

While it’s unreasonable for candidates to expect a perfectly equal division of time, question numbers, and rebuttal and follow-up numbers, it’s clear Carson—who was the frontrunner at one point when he overtook Trump in polling briefly—has been getting the short end of the stick.

It remains to be seen if CBS News’ John Dickerson—who is moderating Saturday evening’s GOP debate here in Greenville, South Carolina, before the First in the South primary here—will be any more fair to Carson than other networks have been. But Jason Osborne, a senior adviser to Carson, tells Breitbart News that the campaign showed the network the disturbing statistics.

“This narrative that the media keeps spinning that Dr. Carson is not jumping in and taking advantage of these debates to push his message is kind of outrageous when they’re the reason why we’re not able to,” Osborne said. “We’re getting half the questions and no follow-ups.”


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