The Republican presidential debate broke down into chaos Thursday night as the three leading candidates and debate moderator all talked over one another for about a minute and a half.
It all started when Ted Cruz reprised an attack on Donald Trump for donating to Democrats in the past. Though Cruz and Trump refrained from attacking one another during the early months of the primary, they have since turned their firepower on each other as the field has narrowed.
Marco Rubio tried interjecting at various points, which mostly just increased the number of people talking over each other. CNN's Wolf Blitzer failed to take control of the situation, and it took about a full 90 seconds for a semblance of order to be restored.
Below is a transcription of the exchange, with the necessary stage directions inserted where appropriate.
Cruz: I believe you know politicians much better than I do, because for 40 years you've been funding liberal democratic politicians. And by the way—
Trump: I funded you. I funded him!
Cruz: And by the way—
Trump: I funded you. I funded this guy. I gave him a check.
Cruz: Yeah, you gave me $5,000. You can have the check back.
[Trump and Cruz begin talking over each other]
Rubio (off-camera): He never funded me.
Cruz: And, by the way, let's be clear: Donald claims ... Donald claims to care—
[Trump interjects. Cruz and Trump begin to talk over each other, making it impossible to hear either clearly. Cruz says something about Trump not being able to follow rules.]
[Rubio jumps in. Now all three are talking at the same time. Rubio says something that ends with "reality TV show." Trump says "thank you" repeatedly.]
[Trump and Cruz point to the right and continue to talk, as Rubio grins at the crowd.]
[Cruz and Trump resume talking over each other.]
Trump: Thank you for the book.
Trump: Go ahead.
Cruz: Donald, you can have—
Trump: We're having a lot of fun up here tonight! I have to tell you.
[Crowd cheers enthusiastically. One woman yells, "Yeah!"]
Trump: Thank you for the book, I appreciate it.
Cruz: Donald, relax.
Trump: I'm relaxed.
[Cruz begins to talk, but Trump cuts him off.]
Trump: You're a basket case. Go ahead.
[Cruz begins to talk again, but Trump again cuts him off.]
Trump: Don't get nervous.
[Pause. Cruz looks down, waiting for affirmation that Trump is done.]
Trump: Go ahead.
[All three begin talking again. Rubio raises a finger to the moderator. This goes on for several seconds as the debate bell, long forgotten as meaningless, rings to signal the end of the answer.]
Blitzer: Gentlemen, gentlemen!
Cruz: I ask that my time —
Hugh Hewitt (debate moderator): We've got to stop this.
[Three people continue to talk over each other as the camera mercifully cuts to Blitzer.]
Cruz: Okay, now—
Blitzer: These are the debate rules—
Cruz: Hold on, I get my answer. He doesn't get my—
Blitzer: I want to move on, I want to move on. These are the rules—
[Cruz continues to talk over Blitzer. Then Trump begins talking again, and several people onstage continue to argue at the same time.]