Republican Candidates Call CNBC Out For Turning Debate Into 'Cage Match'

The media's focus on negativity may have backfired.

In the third Republican presidential debate, GOP candidates took the opportunity to point out the mainstream media's incessant negativity.

Since the 2016 Presidential race has kicked off, much of the media coverage has shifted to pitting certain candidates against each other and trying to get candidates to bash one and other. But at Wednesday night's debate, that plan backfired when Ted Cruz took a stand and explained why the negativity was hurting the American people.

"The questions asked in this debate illustrate why the American people don't trust the media," Cruz said. "This is not a cage match. And you look at the questions — Donald Trump, are you a comic book villain? Ben Carson, can you do math? John Kasich, will you insult two people over here? Marco Rubio, why don't you resign? Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen? How about talking about the substantive issues."


And Cruz is right: Americans don't trust the mainstream media. In September of 2014, Gallup reported that trust in  mass media has hit an all-time low, with only 40 percent of Americans conceding that they trust the media to report "the news fully, accurately, and fairly." 

One of the questions that set Cruz off was an attack on the leading Republican candidate Donald Trump.

"Mr. Trump, you have done very well in this campaign so far by promising to build another wall and make another country pay for it, send 11 million people out of the country, cut taxes $10 trillion without increasing the deficit, and make Americans better off because your greatness will replace the stupidity and incompetence of others," John Harwood said. "Let's be honest. Is this a comic book version of a presidential candidate?"

The tone of the question was similar to many others, which riled up the crowd in Boulder, Colorado and created a similar tension between politicians and the media that we saw in 2012. But not all candidates were immune: in fact, Jeb Bush tried to make an attack against his former mentee from Florida Marco Rubio. But Rubio, keying in on the people's distaste for negativity, avoided getting in the mud.

"Someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you," Rubio said. "My campaign is going to be about the future of America. It's not going to be about attacking anyone else on this stage."

Facebook and Twitter responded positively to the comments made by Rubio and Cruz. Cruz's attack, for one, drew an overwhelmingly positive response from his focus group and on social media, pollster Fred Luntz noted

"Ted Cruz's focus group dials [hit] 98 with his attack on media bias," Luntz wrote on Twitter. "That's the highest score we've ever measured. EVER."

Let it be a message to politicians and media everywhere: we're tired of the negativity.