The top Republican presidential candidates found a common enemy in Wednesday’s CNBC debate: The media.
The biggest applause during the two-hour long debate, which nominally focused on money and economic issues, came when the candidates focused their barbs on the moderators.
It’s a phenomenon that reverberated through social media, with four of the five most-tweeted-about debate moments involving some version of shooting the messenger.
Sen. Ted Cruz, who has made a career criticizing the “liberal media,” delivered the most talked-about barb of the evening, aimed not at his onstage rivals but at the debate’s moderators, CNBC’s Carl Quintanilla, Becky Quick and John Harwood.
“The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don’t trust the media,” Cruz said. “This is not a cage match. 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?”
Rubio offered the second-most-repeated media smack-down, after a Trump tirade about tremendous amounts of money flowing into Super PACs.
“The Democrats have the ultimate Super PAC,” said the Florida senator. “It’s called the mainstream media.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie turned a question about whether federal regulators should oversee fantasy football leagues into an attack on the questioner, who had interrupted the candidate in an attempt to steer the response back to the original question.
“Do you want me to answer or do you want to answer?” Christie asked. “Because I gotta tell you the truth, even in New Jersey, what you’re doing is called rude.”
CNBC’s moderators were booed when they attempted to press Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, about his ties to a questionable nutritional supplement company, Mannatech Inc., which settled charges that it used “deceptive” and “illegal” materials claiming its products could cure Down Syndrome, cystic fibrosis, autism and cancer.
The audience’s criticism was among the five most-discussed debate moments on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.