Overall, the response from media critics and political pundits to Thursday’s Democratic debate, moderated by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and Chuck Todd, was overwhelmingly positive. Both Todd and Maddow were singled out for letting the candidates battle it out without interjecting themselves too much into the action. Also, they asked pointed questions on issues and subjects that hadn’t been covered too much by the media (i.e. Hillary Clinton releasing transcripts of her paid speeches; Bernie Sanders possibly being another Goldwater or McGovern).
However, one moment at the end of the debates got those in the Conservative Entertainment Complex all kinds of pissed off. After a contentious and emotional battle between the two Democratic hopefuls, Maddow went up on stage and hugged both candidates. Considering that Maddow is an opinion host who wears her ideology on her sleeve, most watching likely dismissed it without much thought. But, not those at Fox News and the rest of right-wing media.
Immediately after the debate, Fox anchor Brit Hume sent out the following tweet:
Rachel Maddow embraces both Clinton and Sanders at end of debate. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a moderator do that before.
— Brit Hume (@brithume) February 5, 2016
The following day, a number of Fox News programs devoted time to railing against Maddow for embracing the two Dems, claiming it showed inherent bias. It was also suggested that liberals would freak out if Megyn Kelly or another moderator did the same thing at the end of a GOP debate. (This is a fair point, actually. Though we did have a moment this season where Hugh Hewitt openly applauded Donald Trump for an answer.)
Anyway, Maddow quickly threw cold water on the nontroversy by sending out a tweet in which she let everyone know that she’d give a big bear hug to GOPers if she were given the opportunity.
If/when GOP invites me and MSNBC to host a primary debate, rest assured I am definitely hugging those guys, too. #ImAHugger
— Rachel Maddow MSNBC (@maddow) February 5, 2016
Were the hugs bad optics? Sure. Does it mean anything, especially from a dyed-in-the-wool liberal who will openly advocate for one of these two people come November? No. No it doesn’t.