ABC News drew both record ratings and a heap of complaints about how Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos moderated Wednesday night's Democratic presidential debate.
By Thursday afternoon, more than 15,600 comments were posted on ABC News' website, the tone overwhelmingly negative, accusing the newsmen of focusing on sensational hype rather than concrete issues. TV critic Tom Shales of the Washington Post said Gibson and Stephanopoulos "turned in shoddy, despicable performances."
Columnist David Brooks of the New York Times, however, gave ABC News' performance an "A."
Stephanopoulos defended their line of questioning and said the criticism is just "one more sign of how engaged people are over this election," he said.
Will Bunch, a Philadelphia Daily News writer, said the ABC newsmen spent too much time on trivial matters that didn't concern most voters.
Shales said the coverage appeared slanted against Obama.
At a rally in North Carolina on Thursday, Obama drew roars of approval when he mocked aspects of the debate. "Last night I think we set a new record because it took us 45 minutes before we even started talking about a single issue that matters to the American people," he said.
Another debate seems unlikely.
"I'll be honest with you. We've now had 21," Obama said. "I could deliver Senator Clinton's lines. I'm sure she could deliver mine."