Early on, Raddatz pressed Democratic presidential nominee Clinton on the controversy over her use of private email account during her time as Secretary of State and her decision to delete some 33,000 emails. “You don’t call that extremely careless?” Raddatz said to Clinton.
After Clinton’s two-minute response, Cooper moved the next question on to a new topic. But Trump, the Republican candidate, interjected: “Why haven’t you brought up the emails?”
Cooper replied: “We did bring up the emails.” As he moved to the fate of Obamacare, Trump said with sarcasm: “It’s nice — one on three.” That comment was interpreted as Trump claiming that Raddatz and Cooper were supporting Clinton at his expense.
Trump’s suggestion of bias by the debate moderators is in keeping with his past claims that the “mainstream” media coverage of his presidential campaign has been unfair. As his campaign was rocked during the past 48 hours by the revelation of his lewd and aggressive comments about women captured on a hot-mic recording from 2005, Trump supporters have increasingly pointed the finger at media bias.
Given the upheaval among Republicans since the recording surfaced on Friday evening, the stakes were even higher for Trump and Hillary and the moderators at Sunday’s meeting, the second of three presidential debates scheduled for Clinton and Trump.
The town hall format of Sunday’s debate had the effect of de-emphasizing the role of the moderators. Most questions were posed to the candidates by undecided voters selected for the event by the Gallup polling organization and from online submissions.
Cooper, of CNN, and Raddatz, of ABC News, were stern task-masters in moving the questioning along and keeping the candidates to their two-minute response limits. They tried, mostly in vain, to keep Trump and Clinton from interrupting each other. They pressed both candidates on hot-button issues but neither Raddatz or Cooper were aggressive in fact-checking either candidate.
The task of questioning Trump on his 2005 comments — in which he boasted of using his star power to force himself on women — fell to Cooper as the second question of the 90-minute session. He framed the question in forceful terms, noting that Trump’s statement of apology sought to dismiss the significance of his bragging about being able to simply “grab their p—-” because of his celebrity.
“You called what you said ‘locker room banter.’ That is sexual assault. You bragged that you sexually assaulted women. Do you understand that?” Cooper said.
Trump’s answer continued to downplay the remarks as “locker room talk.” He quickly veered into the need for the U.S. to stop ISIS and blaming the Obama administration for allowing the terrorist group to flourish.
Cooper cut off that tangent by pushing Trump to answer whether he had actually groped women as he described in his conversation with “Access Hollywood'” anchor Billy Bush. Bush, who recently moved the 9 a.m. anchor slot on “Today,” was suspended earlier in the day by NBC News for his part of the conversation.
“You did not kiss or grope women without consent?”” Cooper said. “Have you ever done those things.”
Finally, Trump gave a straightforward answer: “No I have not.”
Raddatz grilled Trump on whether or not he had changed his stance on his plan to issue a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States out of concern for terroist activity. Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate, has suggested. Moments later, Raddatz interrupted Trump’s tangent about the Obama administration’s handling of war in the Middle East to ask the question in an even more direct way the second time.
“Would you please explain whether or not the Muslim ban still stands,” Raddatz said. To which Trump replied: “Why don’t you interrupt her?”