The Fox News Republican debates ended where they began: with a pledge.
During the first, Fox-hosted Republican presidential debate last summer, the GOP presidential candidates were asked whether they would pledge not to run as an independent if they lost the Republican nomination — a clear shot at Donald Trump, who was mulling such a run at the time.
On Thursday night, rivals Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich were pressed on if they would support Trump if he secured their party’s nomination.
Moderators Megyn Kelly, Bret Baier, and Chris Wallace threw the candidates off their talking points. Throughout the night, they managed to keep the candidates on their toes, using clips to highlight perceived hypocrisies and fact-checking them in real time.
Despite Trump’s repeated and loud past complaints about Kelly supposedly being biased against him, the Fox moderator didn’t relent in pressing the Republican presidential frontrunner, playing a highlight reel that showed Trump’s contradictory foreign-policy statements.
“Mr. Trump, one of the things people love about you is they believe you tell it like it is,” Kelly said. “But time and time again in this campaign, you have actually told the voters one thing, only to reverse yourself in weeks or sometimes days.”
She also got Trump to admit that he disagreed with part of his own immigration platform that was still on his campaign website that night.
“I’m changing. I’m changing,” Trump told her of his stance on H1B visas for highly skilled foreign workers.
Wallace further used slides to press Trump on his plan to reduce the federal deficit, pointing out that Trump claimed he would reduce Medicare waste by more money in one year than the government actually spent.
The moderators also asked notably pointed questions to the other candidates.
Wallace challenged Rubio’s attacks on Trump’s business record with an inquiry that challenged the Florida senator’s own record.
“You have taken to calling Mr. Trump as a con artist who portrays himself as a hero to working people while he’s really been, in your words, sticking it to the American workers for 30 years,” Wallace said.
“But he has built a big company that employs thousands of people. Question: How many jobs have you created?” the host continued.
Though Baier told Business Insider before the debate that the moderators would let disputes onstage play out, the moderators ended up aggressively steering the debate, cutting off candidates when they wanted to move to different topics.
Some observers praised the moderators:
These have been the best moderators for the worst debate
— Gideon Resnick (@GideonResnick) March 4, 2016
Megyn Kelly doing a great, factual, journalistically adversarial job as moderator.
— Ari Melber (@AriMelber) March 4, 2016
Chris Wallace is killing it
— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) March 4, 2016
Chris Wallace is such a pro
— Rosie Grey (@RosieGray) March 4, 2016
That Megyn Kelly interrogation was like a karmic correction for the CNBC moment when the moderator could’t back up her question.
— daveweigel (@daveweigel) March 4, 2016
NOW WATCH: Sanders predicts he’ll win the democratic nomination in one of the great ‘political upsets in the history of the US’
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.