The Brief: GOP Debate, Ahmed Mohamed Dominate the Day

Posted by Eleanor Dearman and John Reynolds - The Texas Tribune on
Photo by Screenshot/CNN

The Big Conversation

A couple of stories dominated the day on Wednesday. One of them — the GOP presidential debate — had been hotly anticipated for weeks while the other — the arrest of an Irving teenager for bringing a homemade clock to school — quickly grabbed the spotlight for how unexpected and seemingly unreal the story was.

GOP frontrunner Donald Trump and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina received much of the accolades for their performances at the debate Wednesday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California.

The Tribune's Abby Livingston reported that Texas presidential hopeful Ted Cruz mostly kept a low profile in the encounter among the top 11 contenders for the GOP nomination for president.

"Cruz's clear insistence that he will not alienate Trump meant that in this context, he was left on the sidelines for much of the night," Livingston wrote. "CNN moderator Jake Tapper did not ask Cruz a question until nearly thirty minutes into the two-hour debate, and even before the night began, it was clear there was little upside for Cruz to to engage with Trump, or anyone else."

Meanwhile, reaction to the Monday arrest of Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old student at MacArthur High School, hit critical mass on Wednesday with public figures from President Barack Obama and presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg all offering statements of support.

Irving police on Wednesday continued to say their decision to arrest Mohamed was "appropriate," and that Mohamed's race had nothing to do with his arrest, as the Tribune'sJordan Rudner and Madlin Mekelburg reported. Others said the arrest raises troubling questions as to whether Mohamed was treated more harshly because he is Muslim.

"Instead of encouraging his curiosity, intellect, and ability, the Irving ISD saw fit to throw handcuffs on a frightened 14 year-old Muslim boy wearing a NASA T-shirt and then remove him from school," Terri Burke, executive director of the ACLU of Texas, said in a statement.

The arrest of Mohamed even earned a mention Wednesday evening in the undercard debatefor the four GOP candidates who failed to qualify for the main stage. One of those candidates, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, said, "I don't think a 14-year-old should ever get arrested for bringing a clock to school."

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