Gibson, Stephanopoulos taking criticism for the ABC debate

The reviews are in, and they’re not good, not good in the least for the ABC News Democratic debate last night. The debate moderators, Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos are taking the most on the chin from media critics and reporters. Apparently the audience in the room was none too pleased with them at the time either.

Here’s a report on that from Fox News:

Critics are panning ABC News for its performance at the Democratic presidential debate Wednesday night. Even moderator Charlie Gibson recognized that it wasn’t going well.

Many media critics gave ABC poor reviews, arguing that the debate focused not on policy, but on gaffes by both candidates that have made the news in the last few weeks. The debate was the last to be held before Pennsylvania voters go to the polls on Tuesday to determine who will get the majority of the 158 delegates from that state.

Among the worst offenses to media analysts and viewers was the number of commercial breaks taken, including one just minutes into the two-hour telecast, immediately after Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama made their opening statements.

Gibson later earned jeers for taking a break shortly before the end of the program. Boos could be heard, and Gibson threw up his hands in defeat.

“Oh,” he said with a nervous laugh to co-moderator George Stephanopoulos. “The crowd is turning on me, the crowd is turning on me.”

Video of Gibson getting heckled:

The audience may have been mild compared to this review from the Washington Post:

When Barack Obama met Hillary Clinton for another televised Democratic candidates’ debate last night, it was more than a step forward in the 2008 presidential election. It was another step downward for network news — in particular ABC News, which hosted the debate from Philadelphia and whose usually dependable anchors, Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, turned in shoddy, despicable performances.

For the first 52 minutes of the two-hour, commercial-crammed show, Gibson and Stephanopoulos dwelled entirely on specious and gossipy trivia that already has been hashed and rehashed, in the hope of getting the candidates to claw at one another over disputes that are no longer news. Some were barely news to begin with.

The fact is, cable networks CNN and MSNBC both did better jobs with earlier candidate debates. Also, neither of those cable networks, if memory serves, rushed to a commercial break just five minutes into the proceedings, after giving each candidate a tiny, token moment to make an opening statement. Cable news is indeed taking over from network news, and merely by being competent.

Gibson sat there peering down at the candidates over glasses perched on the end of his nose, looking prosecutorial and at times portraying himself as a spokesman for the working class. Blunderingly he addressed an early question, about whether each would be willing to serve as the other’s running mate, “to both of you,” which is simple ineptitude or bad manners. It was his job to indicate which candidate should answer first. When, understandably, both waited politely for the other to talk, Gibson said snidely, “Don’t all speak at once.”

For that matter, the running-mate question that Gibson made such a big deal over was decidedly not a big deal — especially since Wolf Blitzer asked it during a previous debate televised and produced by CNN.

The boyish Stephanopoulos, who has done wonders with the network’s Sunday morning hour, “This Week” (as, indeed, has Gibson with the nightly “World News”), looked like an overly ambitious intern helping out at a subcommittee hearing, digging through notes for something smart-alecky and slimy. He came up with such tired tripe as a charge that Obama once associated with a nutty bomb-throwing anarchist. That was “40 years ago, when I was 8 years old,” Obama said with exasperation.

My question is, what did people want? We have heard time and time again about their health care plans, their Iraq war plans, they gas price places, their foreign policy plans, their domestic policy plans, and whether they prefer diamonds or pearls.

The issues have been beaten to death, ad nauseam. I’ll agree, the questions did not pertain to the “issues” of the campaign, but they did attest to the “issues” at hand which each candidate needed to address.