During the debate, Kelly revealed she had initially planned to ask DeSantis about his failure to connect with voters but decided against it in the interest of fairness. However, she didn't shy away from expressing her personal opinions about the governor.
Kelly remarked, "You can't craft a question like that without being very opinionated. It's like me being like, 'You're not a retail politics person! People don't like you in the way that you need, yeah, you’re lame!"
She further criticized DeSantis' performance by stating, "You gotta stick to facts, and his numbers are just so dreadful."
The controversy ensued when a clip of DeSantis responding to Kelly's opening question was played. A hot mic caught Kelly saying something that was not very clear but seemed to be about DeSantis not liking the question.
In response, a male panelist was heard saying, "Look at that face. Looked like you shot his dog." This remark was met with laughter from several people off-screen.
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As the playback of debate moments continued, a few more snippets of conversation and laughter were overheard during an answer from candidate Vivek Ramaswamy.
Chris Christie took aim at DeSantis for refusing to answer whether or not Donald Trump was fit for office, Ramaswamy attacked Nikki Haley for her foreign policy experience, and all four candidates, sans Trump, yelled back and forth, having to be silenced by the moderator several times throughout the night.
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The incident quickly gained attention on X, formerly known as Twitter, with many users criticizing the panelists for mocking the governor's physical appearance.
One user shared a clip of the hot mic incident and commented, "Megyn Kelly seems to be determined to stay down in the amateur hour division. I hope they never have her host a debate ever again."
Another user wrote, "Wow, congrats NewsNation! I visited your website, got the app for the first time last night and just like that, I'm done with you ... You're a clown."
A third user commented, "These people's interest in the governor's appearance is odd and it's hard for me to take them seriously as pundits. Especially since these same people would take offense if anyone mentioned how they looked."