Democratic Debate Questions Slammed: 'Three Hours and No Questions Tonight About Climate, Housing, or Immigration. But You Know, Ellen'

Moderators came in for criticism from Democrats over the topic choices for the fourth Democratic debate after a question about Ellen DeGeneres' friendship with former President George W. Bush made it onto the agenda but climate change and immigration did not.

Host Anderson Cooper, in his final question on the night, said: "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 that's OK, that we're all different."

"So in that spirit, we'd like you to tell us about a friendship that you've had that would surprise us and what impacts it's had on you and your beliefs."

But the lighthearted question in the debate, hosted by CNN and The New York Times, did not go down well with some, with Democrat hopefuls Julian Castro and Kamala Harris leading the criticism.

Castro tweeted after Tuesday's Ohio debate: "Three hours and no questions tonight about climate, housing, or immigration.

"Climate change is an existential threat. America has a housing crisis. Children are still in cages at our border. But you know, Ellen.#DemocraticDebate"

Harris wrote: "Three hours. Not one question about the climate crisis. Not one question about LGBTQ+ rights. Not one question about immigration. These issues are too important to ignore. #DemDebate

Theirs were among a number of tweets complaining to CNN about the topics posed in the debate, with some issues such as reproductive rights and police violence only addressed because candidates managed to flip other topics over to discuss the issues they wanted to.

California's Harris, who had previously complained about the lack of questions concerning reproductive rights, enjoyed a debate highlight when she raised the issue herself.

"There are states that have passed laws that will virtually prevent women from having access to reproductive health care, and it is not an exaggeration to say women will die," Harris said.

"Poor women, women of color will die because these Republican legislatures in these various states who are out of touch with America are telling women what to do with their bodies," she added.

Meanwhile Castro's description of police violence also saw him address an issue that many complained had not been tackled by debate moderators.

"There are two problems I have with mandatory buybacks," Castro said during a discussion on gun buyback programs.

"Number one, folks can't define it, and if you're not going door-to-door then it's not really mandatory. But also, in the places that I grew up in, we weren't exactly looking for another reason for cops to come banging on the door."

"I am not going to give these police officers another reason to go door-to-door in certain communities," he added. "Because police violence is also gun violence, and we need to address that."