The Republican presidential debate took place in Miami on Wednesday night, with just five candidates taking to the stage after former vice president Mike Pence suspended his campaign and front-runner Donald Trump failed to attend.
The debate saw foreign policy issues dominate including the ongoing tensions in the Middle East, all the while the candidates continued to trade insults with each other.
But one particular moment caught the attention of Mr Kimmel, prompting the Jimmy Kimmel Live! host to condemn entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy as a “weird, unlikeable cartoon character of a person”.
“Vivek did one of the dumbest things a candidate could do,” Mr Kimmel said.
“He took an unprompted shot at one of Nikki Haley’s kids.”
Mr Kimmel was referring to one of the debate’s most fiery moments, when former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley blasted Mr Ramaswamy as “scum” when he brought up her daughter in the middle of the debate.
“In the last debate, she made fun of me for actually joining TikTok while her own daughter was actually using the app for a long time. So you might want to take care of your family first,” Mr Ramaswamy said.
“Leave my daughter out of your voice,” Ms Haley replied. “You’re just scum.”
Mr Kimmel mocked both candidates for the exchange, saying of Ms Haley’s comments: “Sounds like the first draft of what Will Smith yelled at Chris Rock,” referencing the moment Smith punched Rock on stage at the Oscars over a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head.
During the debate, TikTok emerged as a key talking point as the GOP White House hopefuls sparred over foreign policy.
The app is owned by Beijing-based parent company ByteDance and its ties to the Chinese government have caused concern for the US government.
In the previous GOP debate, Ms Haley and Mr Ramaswamy clashed over their stances on the app, which was banned on government-issued devices earlier this year.
Mr Ramaswamy was asked why he decided to join the video-sharing app despite the ban. “Part of how we win elections is reaching the next generation of young Americans where we are,” he said at the time.
“This is infuriating, because TikTok is one of the most dangerous social media apps that we could have,” Ms Haley had responded.
“And… honestly, every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber for what you say,” she told Mr Ramaswamy.
“150 million people are on TikTok. That means they can get your contacts, they can get your financial information, they can get your emails, they can get your text messages, they can get all of these things. China knows exactly what they’re doing,” she added.
Ms Haley has been a vocal critic of TikTok and its Chinese-owned parent company ByteDance Ltd., as well as China’s influence on US politics.
She previously called for an outright ban on the app during a campaign stop in Nashville, Tennessee in March, calling it a “Trojan horse for the Chinese Communist Party”.
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