Not once, not twice, not thrice or four times even but throughout Tuesday night’s Democratic primary debate in South Carolina, booing broke out in the audience against one candidate or another.
The unusual interruption — where decorum has dictated most debate audiences clap, cheer or laugh only occasionally — was noticed on social media.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren was booed while criticizing former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Sen. Bernie Sanders was booed while praising a literacy program started under Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro. Later, former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg was also booed.
Some pointed to the fact that the debate attendees included people who had to spend a lot of money to pay for the tickets and so may have been predisposed to a candidate such as Bloomberg, a billionaire. Others said the booing was a stratagem, perhaps by Bloomberg who could have paid the booers and whose own debate performance last week was widely panned.
Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon, a former New York gubernatorial candidate, expressed her displeasure at Bloomberg, whom she labeled “insidious.”
Something is weird about this #DemDebate in South Carolina now.— BrooklynDad_Defiant! (@mmpadellan) February 26, 2020
Bernie Sanders just hit Bloomberg with what would normally be a surefire applause burn, but it drew boos instead.
Did Bloomberg stack the audience with paid supporters?
How dare people boo @ewarren for speaking out about pregnancy discrimination and accusations against Bloomberg. Seriously, this is what happens to women who hold powerful men accountable. I’m disgusted. #DemDebate— Rachel Barnhart (@rachbarnhart) February 26, 2020
The first journalist to report who Bloomberg is paying to loudly boo during this debate gets the first annual Olivia Nuzzi Prize for Meaningless But Entertaining Reporting.— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) February 26, 2020
If you boo or cheer at a debate you should get thrown out immediately. This is not about you and you’re wasting everyone’s time— Josh Billinson (@jbillinson) February 26, 2020
Throughout the night, the seven candidates — former Vice President Joe Biden, Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sanders, billionaire investor Tom Steyer and Warren — sounded off on issues including national security, health care, Israel, North Korea, Russian interference in American politics and the threat of the coronavirus.
At times their disagreements, otherwise familiar to Democratic voters after many debates this election, played out factitious fashion. The moderators did not always keep a tight rein on the proceedings.
With another contest only days away, followed by “Super Tuesday” next week, in which more than a dozen states will vote simultaneously, the candidates took the night to make one of their last (and they hoped best) cases to primary voters.