Julián Castro, the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, criticized the moderators of Tuesday night’s Democratic debate for closing with a question about comedian Ellen DeGeneres’ controversial friendship with former President George W. Bush without asking any questions about housing and other critical issues.
“Three hours and no questions tonight about climate, housing, or immigration,” Castro wrote in a Twitter post pinned to the top of his feed. “Climate change is an existential threat. America has a housing crisis. Children are still in cages at our border. But you know, Ellen.”
The debate in Westerville, Ohio, was moderated by Anderson Cooper and Erin Burnett, both from CNN, and Marc Lacey, national editor for The New York Times. The three asked questions about foreign policy, health care, gun control, big tech, the opioid crisis, and other topics.
Cooper asked the final question with 20 minutes left in the debate. There were 12 candidates on stage and their answers served as their closing remarks.
The question was: “Last week Ellen DeGeneres was criticized after she and former President George W. Bush were seen laughing together at a football game. Ellen defended their friendship, saying, `We’re all different, and I think that we’ve forgotten that’s OK that we’re all different.’ In that spirit, we’d like you to tell us about a friendship you’ve had that would surprise us and what impact it’s had on you and your beliefs.”
Castro was the first candidate to answer and he talked about holding people accountable for their actions, even while being friends. He didn’t bring up climate, housing, or immigration.
A week earlier, Castro had challenged the debate moderators via Twitter to ask a housing question. On Oct. 9 he wrote:
“Housing is one of the most pressing concerns for Americans. It’s insane that there hasn’t been a housing question in 5 nights of debates—especially as Trump is criminalizing homelessness. I’m calling on @CNN and @nytimes to ask a question on housing in the next debate.”
The same day, he tweeted:
“Housing shouldn’t be a back-burner issue in this election, because it’s not a back-burner issue for Americans.”
DeGeneres, host of NBC’s The Ellen DeGeneres Show, was widely criticized for sitting with Bush at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, earlier this month to watch the Dallas Cowboys play the Green Bay Packers. DeGeneres knows Bush from an appearance he made on her show two years ago.
After a picture from the Oct. 6 game went viral showing DeGeneres sitting next to Bush, she explained to her studio audience she and her wife, Portia de Rossi, had been invited to attend the game by Charlotte Jones, daughter of Dallas Cowboy owner Jerry Jones, and to sit in the family’s box seats.
“We went because we wanted to keep up with the Joneses,” DeGeneres said. She defended her friendship with Bush, urging her viewers to “be kind to everyone.”