In the wake of Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris, executives at CBS News made a last-minute decision to place additional emphasis on questions related to terrorism, foreign policy, and national security at Saturday’s democratic debates in Des Moines, Iowa. According to an unnamed source, the changes did not sit well with a representative for Bernie Sanders’ campaign.
A staffer from one of the rival campaigns described the call to Yahoo News. “It was a little bit of a bizarre scene. The Sanders representative, you know, really laid into CBS and basically … kind of threw, like, a little bit of a fit and said, ‘You are trying to turn this into a foreign policy debate. That’s not what any of us agreed to. How can you change the terms of the debate, you know, on the day of the debate. That’s not right,'” the source said.
A second source told Yahoo News that both the O’Malley and Clinton campaigns were in favor of CBS’s decision, which will also allow each of the candidates the chance to make a minute-long statement to address the events in Paris.
The decision to focus on matters of foreign policy would appear to give an advantage to Hillary Clinton, but could also offer her rivals an opening to attack the former secretary of state. Republican rivals Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina on Saturday faulted both Clinton and President Obama for allowing ISIS to grow stronger under their watch.
A representative for CBS News reportedly reassured Sanders’ strategist, Mark Longabaugh, that the network was only re-ordering the questions to open the debate with foreign policy questions based on the events that unfolded in Paris the day before.
Shortly before Saturday’s debate, Sanders’ spokesman told a New York Times reporter that someone at the unnamed rival campaign was trying to make “a mountain out of a molehill, but it’s still a molehill.”