Democratic Party Boss on the CNN Debate Protests: "We Dealt With It"

Scott Olson/Getty Images
Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez

Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez played down the impact of two separate protests that interrupted Wednesday night's debate.

The second night of CNN's Democratic primary debate was interrupted twice by protest chants, but the head of the Democratic National Committee doesn't think it spoiled the Wednesday event.

"We have a protocol in place, and we dealt with it," Tom Perez told The Hollywood Reporter after the debate. "And it was very temporary."

CNN has not yet commented on the protests, which targeted New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio over the city's handling of a police-involved shooting and former Vice President Joe Biden over the Obama administration's immigration policy.

Overall, Perez said he's pleased with CNN's stewardship of the two-night event. "We had a good partnership," he said. "We talked about issues both nights. That's what it's all about it. They talked about hand size when they were here four years ago, the Republicans. We didn't talk about that. We talked about all the important issues."

Climate change was one of the "important issues" that Wednesday night's debate covered, which Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's campaign took credit for.

"It was only on the debate stage due to Jay Inslee," said Inslee campaign spokesman Jamal Raad. "It’s clearly not being treated with the seriousness it deserves."

Congressman Joaquin Castro, brother of 2020 candidate Julian Castro, gave the network a passing grade. "I think there were a lot of different parts to the debate, and I think they managed it fairly well," he told THR in the "spin room" after the debate.

But he echoed a popular critique made by candidates after Tuesday night's debate. "I do feel like there was a really big time differential among the candidates, and I think part of that is the format, in terms of 30 seconds to respond, another 30 seconds," he said. "You probably have to limit that to one time instead of continuing to go back and forth. That's my only complaint."

CNN's moderating team of Jake Tapper, Don Lemon and Dana Bash "did well," Castro said, though he wished there were more questions on foreign policy.

In one of the few candidate-moderator clashes of the night, de Blasio made a similar complaint, pushing for discussion on U.S. policy toward Iran.