During the third GOP debate, candidates got feisty with the CNBC moderators. They took aim at the questions asked, at the "mainstream media" and at the moderators interrupting their answers. (Victoria M. Walker/The Washington Post)

Before the candidates even took the stage at Wednesday night's Republican presidential debate, the network hosting the debate was getting pilloried on social media.

As the 8 o'clock Eastern start time came and went, CNBC's pre-debate pundits kept droning on. And on. And on. It wasn't clear why. There was no countdown clock on the screen or indication of when the show might begin.

A sampling of the reaction:

(The above tweet, by the way, was shown on a ticker that CNBC had going at the bottom of their screen as the debate started. Was anybody screening those? Apparently not, judging by the below.)

Once things got going, it didn't get much better. The candidates took turns ragging on the moderators for their questions and quibbled with their premises and facts. Sometimes, we would note, this was without good reason to, as when Donald Trump said he hadn't called Marco Rubio Mark Zuckerberg's "personal senator." He had. On his Web site. And going after the mainstream media is a tried-and-true GOP applause line that most candidates employed at one point or another.

But when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) took an entire 60 seconds he had to denounce the debate moderators, he found some unlikely allies. Including the aforementioned Patton Oswalt and left-leaning comedian Bill Maher.

Even the pro-gun-control Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence -- not exactly an ally of the candidates on-stage Wednesday -- took a shot.

"The candidates and audience agreed: the moderators focused more time on divisive questions than addressing the one issue that 93 percent of Americans agree on: stopping gun violence," the group said in a statement.

Other reactions were similar:

By the end of the debate, the chatter was all about CNBC.

And the Republican National Committee pounced.