2016 Republicans vs. the media – CNN

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Los Angeles (CNN)Republican presidential candidates tore into CNBC’s moderators at Wednesday night’s GOP debate, issuing the sharpest attacks on the mainstream media of the 2016 election cycle.

Sen. Ted Cruz accused the moderators of trying to instigate a cage match, Sen. Marco Rubio called the media a super PAC for Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump slammed the “ridiculous questions.”

In the final minutes, sources told CNN, angry representatives from the campaigns began confronting Republican National Committee officials to voice complaints about the tone and substance of the debate.

When the faceoff was over, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus blasted CNBC for asking “gotcha” questions and said the network “should be ashamed.”

“I was very disappointed in the moderators. I’m disappointed in CNBC,” he told reporters in the spin room in Boulder, Colorado. “I thought they would bring forward a pretty fair forum here tonight. But I think it was one gotcha question, one personal low blow after another.”

He continued, “It’s like they tried to design a Rubik’s cube for every question to take the worst element, I think, of what the moderators and what the media should bring to the table. And all I can tell you is that while I’m pretty much proud of our candidates for pretty much sticking together, I’m very disappointed in the moderators and I’m very disappointed with CNBC.”

Priebus went even further in an official statement: “One of the great things about our party is that we are able to have a dynamic exchange about which solutions will secure a prosperous future, and I will fight to ensure future debates allow for a more robust exchange,” he wrote. “CNBC should be ashamed of how this debate was handled.”

The candidates’ attacks on the media were red meat for the conservative base, which already has a deep mistrust of the mainstream press. But even by conservative standards, the candidates’ broadsides on Wednesday night were aggressive and unrelenting, and delighted the audience in Boulder.

The candidates’ fierce criticism of CNBC — the first sustained volley against the media of the current campaign — immediately called to mind the frequent attacks against the press during debates in the 2012 elections.

Brian Steel, CNBC’s senior vice president for public relations, stood by the moderators’ performance.

“People who want to be President of the United States should be able to answer tough questions,” he said in a statement late Wednesday night.

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