Is Hillary Clinton an enabler of sexual misconduct? That loaded question was poised to the Republican presidential field during a Fox Business debate Thursday night in South Carolina as the GOP candidates have increasingly cast a spotlight on Bill Clinton's many sex scandals.
Moderator Maria Bartiromo asked the question only hours after Carly Fiorina slammed Hillary Clinton's marriage during an earlier, less-viewed debate featuring the least popular candidates. “Unlike another woman in this race, I actually like spending time with my husband,” Fiorina cracked during her opening statement. Business mogul Donald Trump has also slammed the Clintons' marriage in recent weeks, calling the 42nd president "one of the great abusers of the world."
Ben Carson was the only candidate who responded to Bartiromo's question, but it was hard to tell if he agreed with her line of thinking or not. “Here’s the real issue,” Carson said. “Is this America anymore? ... Do we still have values and principles?"
That Maria Bartiromo question about Hillary Clinton being a sexual enabler...wow.
— Mr Media Training (@MrMediaTraining) January 15, 2016
What does an aneurysm feel like, because I think I had one when the #GOPdebate moderator asked if Hilary is an enabler of sexual misconduct
— Elizabeth Preston (@Inkfish) January 15, 2016
Pundits predicted the debate hosted by Fox Business would turn ugly given that it was the first showdown of the year, just weeks before the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses, the first nominating contest in the nation. Then the candidates head to New Hampshire for the Feb. 9 primary, and subsequent contests in Nevada and South Carolina.
Tightening polls also made the debate a pivotal event for many candidates. Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz are battling for first place. Trump, who has held on to first place for months, has lashed out as Cruz has soared in the polls, questioning his religion and eligibility to be president as someone who was born in Canada to an American mother. Cruz has swung back, pointing to Trump's former friendship with Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.
The main stage debate included Trump, Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. An earlier "undercard" debate featuring the candidates with the least support as determined by national polls included Fiorina, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, declined to attend the first debate after he was demoted from the prime time event.
The main debate was hosted by Neil Cavuto and Bartiromo at North Charleston Coliseum and Performing Arts Center in North Charleston, South Carolina.