TikTok, the booming social media app, became a football in the Republican debate Wednesday night.
Stuart Varney, one of the moderators, asked Vivek Ramaswamy why he had joined the app while meeting with an influencer, noting that TikTok had been “banned on government-issued devices because of its ties to the Chinese government.”
Mr. Ramaswamy defended his use of TikTok, saying he was trying to reach a younger generation, though he argued that children under 16 should not be on “addictive” social media.
“I have a radical idea for the Republican Party: We need to win elections,” he said. “Part of how we win elections is reaching the next generation of young Americans where they are.”
Nikki Haley disagreed. Strongly.
“TikTok is one of the most dangerous social media assets that we can have,” Ms. Haley said. “And honestly, every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber for what you say.”
That quip quickly sent the back-and-forth into a shouting match, with Ms. Haley repeatedly telling Mr. Ramaswamy, “We can’t trust you.”
TikTok became a political flashpoint last year, with both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate arguing for banning the app and national security experts expressing “extreme concern” about its operations in the United States given its ties to China.
But the commercial break that followed Mr. Ramaswamy’s and Ms. Haley’s argument featured, among political spots, an ad for TikTok.