Republican Candidates Barely Addressed the Flint Water Crisis at the GOP Debate

The water crisis in Flint, Michigan received little attention at Thursday night's Republican presidential debate in Detroit, where candidates were expected to face questions about how people in Flint continue to live with contaminated public drinking water.

But the candidates seemed to spend more time discussing the size of Donald Trump's hands.

Candidates were asked about the months-long crisis — located only about 70 miles away from the debate stage — just once during the debate by FOX News moderator Megyn Kelly. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was the only one to answer directly, saying that failures at the local, state, and federal government levels were to blame. It was the 33rd question asked, according to the Detroit Free Press.

"What happened in Flint was a terrible thing," Rubio said.

In the same breath, however, Rubio was quick to slam "politicizing" the crisis, which he said "is really unfair" since no one would purposefully "poison someone." Rubio also credited Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) for taking responsibility for the crisis — both lines of argument observers on Twitter were quick to call out.

For many both inside and outside of Flint, the crisis was nothing if not political. The crisis began after cost-cutting measures from Snyder led the city to switch drinking water sources to the corrosive Flint river, whose water eroded Flint's aging pipes, leaching lead and other contaminants into the city's drinking water.

Flint officials declared a state of emergency in January — but residents had been consuming contaminated water there for months. Authorities have set up water bottle distribution centers for residents and provided water filters to be installed in homes. Still, residents sharply criticized the government's handling of the crisis.


Snyder's cost-cutting was called out in January by comedian Larry Wilmore, who quipped that, "Well, this is what small government looks like... When you have politicians falling all over themselves to see who can make the most Draconian budget cuts you get decisions like this."

You can watch Rubio address the Flint water question below.