Fox News and Google to present GOP presidential debate

Fox News and Google will team up later this month to host a Republican presidential debate featuring video and text questions submitted by the public via YouTube.

The use of YouTube-generated questions for a presidential debate was first attempted in 2007, when YouTube and CNN joined to produce Republican and Democratic debates. But the format drew controversy, and CNN was criticized for the questions it chose to use.

This year’s debate will air live Sept. 22 from the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. It will be moderated by Fox News anchor Bret Baier. The debate will be hosted in conjunction with the Republican Party of Florida.

“For access to news and information, it’s hard to imagine two more powerful brands than Fox News and Google, which is why we are proud to partner with a leader in global technology,” said Michael Clemente, senior vice president of news editorial at Fox. “The strength and reach of both should ensure a thorough and engaging debate that anyone can participate in.”

Viewers will be asked to vote on questions submitted through Fox News’s YouTube channel.

“Fox News will use the votes to help choose which questions are posed to the candidates,” a Fox statement said. Google search trends will be presented on air “to help provide context to the questions and inform the debate throughout the evening.”

In the last presidential election cycle, CNN drew fire for the viewer-generated questions it posed to candidates.

The CNN/YouTube Democratic debate ended with a question for then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton – if she preferred “diamonds or pearls” – that was later learned to have been hand-picked by CNN producers.

Democrats were also asked to respond to questions on global warming posed by an animated snowman named Billiam. When it came time for the Republican debate, Mitt Romney at first refused to participate because he didn’t “know if it makes sense to have people running for president answering questions posed from snowmen.”

Billiam didn’t make an appearance at the Republican debate.

But the Republican debate also drew controversy when Brig. Gen. Keith Kerr of Santa Rosa, who introduced himself as a veteran of 43 years of service, a graduate of the Army War College and “an openly gay man,” asked of the candidates, “Why you think that American men and women in uniform are not professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians.”

CNN failed to mention that Kerr had worked in support of Clinton’s campaign, causing some to suggest that CNN had intentionally planted a question aimed at embarrassing the GOP candidates. The network said that despite vetting questioners, it was unaware of Kerr’s ties to the Clinton campaign.

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