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Recap: The First 2016 Democratic Presidential Debate


Throughout the first Democratic debate, tough questions were posed and tough words were exchanged. While three of the five candidates on stage were undoubtedly overshadowed by the high-profile status of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, all five hopefuls made headlines in their own ways.

Perhaps the most talked about moment of the debate was Sanders’ defense of Clinton and her email scandal.

Following Clinton’s response about the controversy surrounding her emails, Sanders quickly jumped in and helped his competitor out.

“I think the secretary is right — that is, that the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails,” Sanders said, prompting applause from the audience and appreciation from Clinton.

“Thank you,” she responded. “Me, too.”

Another controversial topic touched on during the debate was the issue of gun control — with Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley making perhaps the biggest impact when asked his approach to curbing gun-related deaths in America.

“It's fine to talk about all of these things, and I'm glad we're talking about all of these things, but I've actually done them,” he said.

O’Malley then referenced the parents of a woman killed in the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shooting, who were in the audience during the debate.

“The game was rigged. A man had sold 4,000 rounds of military ammunition to this person that killed their daughter, riddled her body with five bullets, and he didn't even ask where it was going,” he said. “They were slapped with $200,000 in court fees because of the way the NRA gets its way in our Congress and we take a back seat. It's time to stand up and pass comprehensive gun safety legislation as a nation.”

Clinton was front and center during the debate, and moderator Anderson Cooper didn’t hold back in challenging the former Secretary of State on her history of changing positions. When asked whether or not she was a progressive or a moderate — both of which she’d previously identified as — her answer was blunt.

“I'm a progressive, but I'm a progressive who likes to get things done," she said. 

Former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee raised eyebrows for comments made regarding his 1999 vote to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act, explaining that it was his “very first vote” upon arriving in the Senate. 

“I'd just arrived, my dad had died in office, I was appointed to the office,” he said. 

“Are you saying you don't know what you voted for?" Cooper asked.

“I just arrived in Senate. ... I think you're being a little rough; I just arrived at the United States Senate,” Chafee responded, before attempting to move the discussion to income inequality. 

The controversial Glass-Steagall Act refers to four provisions that prevented commercial banks from participating in investment banking and insurance activities, according to Fox 2 Now. In other words, the Act prevented big banks from dealing with both Main Street and Wall Street. Banks could engage in taking deposits, doing mortgages and small business loans, or they could buy and sell stocks on Wall Street and help big companies merge; they could not, however, do both.

The Act was repealed in 1999, but O'Malley and Sanders have both said it should be reinstated.

Former Virginia senator Jim Webb, one of the lesser-known candidates on stage in Las Vegas, spent much of his time expressing frustration over the amount of speaking time he’d been given. 

“I know my time has run out but in speaking of changing positions and the position on how this debate has occurred is kind of frustrating because unless somebody mentions my name I can't get into the discussion,” Webb said. 

“You agreed to the rules and you're wasting time,” Cooper responded. 

“This hasn't been equal time,” Webb later added.

Who do you think came out on top during the first Democratic debate?

Sources: ABC News, NPR, Fox 2 Now / Photo credit:,


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