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The Weird Thing GOP Candidates Are Doing When They Get Called Out On Lies

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 29/10/2015 Ruby Mellen
ATHENA IMAGE © Justin Sullivan via Getty Images ATHENA IMAGE

Candidates made a number of misleading statements and even told some outright lies during the GOP debate Wednesday night. Sometimes they even got caught by the CNBC moderators.

But what happened next was pretty weird.

Instead of explaining themselves or clarifying their previous statements, the candidates stubbornly insisted they were right and the moderators were wrong. Given the crowd's reaction to any point made against the media, perhaps it's not actually so weird that candidates chose this route.

In an ideal world, however, a debate stage is meant to hold the candidates accountable for their records, policies and positions. It's certainly easier to employ the defense mechanism of denying the truth when it's not convenient than it is to admit that you've been caught in a lie, but it might not exactly give voters confidence that certain Republican candidates have the facts to back up their platforms.

Here are some times when candidates were caught in their own denials, deflections and contradictions and decided to dig in their heels. 

Donald Trump refused to admit he criticized Mark Zuckerberg -- even though it's on his campaign website.

The billionaire reality TV star had an exchange with CNBC reporter Becky Quick about his criticism of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. 

On the topic of H1B work visas, which companies can give to foreign workers for their specialized skills, Quick said to Trump, "You have been very critical of Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, who has wanted to increase the number of these H1Bs." 

"I was not at all critical of him. I was not at all," Trump responded.

When Quick asked why she'd heard that, Trump said he didn't know.

"You people write the stuff," he quipped, getting laughs and applause from the audience.

Quick later returned to the question, saying, "You called [Rubio] 'Mark Zuckerberg's personal senator' because he was in favor of H1B."

"I never said that. I never said that," Trump claimed.

But Trump's immigration platform, as listed on his website, is critical of both the H1B visa and the Facebook CEO, as well as Rubio. So actually, his people "write the stuff." 

Ben Carson insisted his fantasy tax math was sound, and called his proven ties to a sketchy company "total propaganda."

Former neurosurgeon Ben Carson got into trouble with his tax plan when Quick said she had done the math and found the plan would bring in "less than half" of the tax revenue the federal government currently collects.

"You'd have to cut government about 40 percent to make it work with a $1.1 trillion hole," said Quick.

"That's not true," said Carson.

"It is true," Quick said. "I looked at the numbers."

Carson didn't explain where Quick may have made some errors, but he's not the only GOP candidate to have put forth a tax plan with some concerning mathematical problems.

Still, Carson said the criticism was rubbish, and that "When we put all the facts down, you'll be able to see that it's not true, it works out very well."

CNBC's Carl Quintilla also confronted Carson about his partnership with Mannatech, a nutritional supplement company that has claimed it could cure cancer and has been sued in Texas for falsely advertising its product's abilities.

Carson, speaking over the boos of audience members who apparently hated Quintilla's question, wrote off any relationship with Mannatech as "total propaganda."

Quintilla noted that Carson once appeared on the homepage of the company's website. But that's not all.

Carson has actually had a longstanding relationship with the company, which has included him giving speeches for the brand and promoting its product.

Marco Rubio wouldn't admit that a moderator was right about his tax plan. 

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) went head to head with CNBC's John Harwood, who cited the Tax Foundation in saying that Rubio's tax plan gives more after-tax income to the wealthiest 1 percent than it does to the middle class.

"No that's -- you're wrong," Rubio said, refuting both the acclaimed think tank and the business journalist. 

Rubio, to monstrous applause, alleged that Harwood wrote a story on this matter and had to correct it. Harwood denied that claim.

Harwood did, in fact, have to issue a correction on his coverage of Rubio's tax plan, but it was on a tweet, not a story. Earlier this month, Harwood clarified on Twitter that Rubio's tax plan would benefit the lower 10 percent proportionally more than the top 1 percent. The tweet didn't address any misinformation regarding middle class tax revenue -- and neither did Rubio -- which was what the question was about.

Ted Cruz pilloried moderators for not asking substantive questions after candidates ignored substantive questions.

If there was one topic the GOP candidates and their audience enjoyed talking about more than tax proposals and the nation's economy, it was how much the media sucks. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) expressed particular disdain for the moderators' lines of questioning, while in fact managing to dodge a legitimate question about his opposition to the current bill to raise the debt ceiling. 

"The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don't trust the media," Cruz said to uproarious applause. 

"'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?'" Cruz mimicked. 

But as Ezra Klein pointed out Wednesday night, those weren't actually the questions posed to the candidates. Carson was not asked to do math -- he was asked to clarify his tax plan, which he didn't. Trump was asked if basing his platform on the promise of a gigantic border wall was a "comic-book version" of a campaign, because he has yet to come up with much solid policy beyond that. 

Quintanilla pointed out that Cruz had completely deflected the question. "I asked you about the debt limit and I got no answer," he said. When Cruz then tried to answer, Quintanilla pointed out, "You used your time on something else."  

In all, the candidates, while certainly able to rally the audience, failed to substantiate claims such as "you're wrong," "that's not true" and "I never said that." 

Even former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who also received attention during the last GOP debate for embellishing and misrepresenting facts, did not recant on her statement that women suffered the most during President Barack Obama's first term. 

"Everybody came out and said I was using wrong data," Fiorina said. "No, I’m not using wrong data." 

She never said why. Perhaps because she's wrong.

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