CNN debate took place in S. Carolina

At tonight’s CNN debate in South Carolina, the four remaining GOP presidential candidates each said they opposed current anti-piracy legislation pending in Congress.

Newt Gingrich said, “The idea that we are going to preemptively censor the Internet on behalf of corporations seems like to me the exactly wrong thing to do.”

Mitt Romney said, “The truth is, the law as written is far too intrusive, far too expansive, far to threatening to freedom of speech and movement of information across the Internet.”

Ron Paul, who has citing his opposition to the legislation on the campaign trail, said that the GOP has traditionally “been on the wrong side of the issue.” “Freedom and constitutions bring factions together. I think this is a good example.”

Rick Santorum had earlier campaign appearances stopped just short of supporting the bills, and noted at the debate that “The idea that anything goes on the Internet, where did that come from?…Property rights should be respected.” But he said that the legislation “goes too far.”

There have been grumblings about studio chiefs withholding support because of unhappiness with the Obama administration after it released a statement critical of the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House and its companion bill in the Senate, the PROTECT IP Act. But the opposition to the legislation from the GOP field leaves few other options that to just sit it out.

Earlier, MPAA chairman Chris Dodd told Fox News that “the industry is watching very carefully who’s going to stand up for them.”

In an interview with Variety, Fox Filmed Entertainment co-chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos said that it is up to studio executives to decide among themselves whether to withhold individual support.

As for himself, he said, “I have been a very early and ardent supporter of the president, but I couldn’t say at this time that I am very enthusiastic about providing support,” he said. “If you went to Detroit and said, ‘I think the Japanese build better cars,’ I don’t think you would feel a wellspring of support if as a candidate for office you went there for fund-raisers the next week.”

Gianopulos lamented that the legislation was a victim of “complete distortion,” then that message took on a life of its own as it spread through social media.

“It is a lot easier to distort something than it is to take the time to deal with an issue with specificity.”

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more