Mercedes Schlapp: CNN Debate Was ‘Montessori School’ ‘Unstructured’

During an appearance on Fox News’ MediaBuzz on Sunday, Republican commentator Mercedes Schlapp compared the recent GOP presidential debate on CNN with that on Fox as being like a “Montessori school” that was “unstructured.”

The MediaBuzz regular said that the Fox debate “was like catholic schools, so you know it's very routine, its 9:00 to 9:30 mass, 9:30 to 10:00 English, but then you go to the CNN debate and it was Montessori school... Unstructured, how do you feel, let's talk about personalities -- you know it was such a different approach. I think both have benefits, though.”

Andrea McCarren, veteran reporter for ABC and NBC admitted that some people may have wanted to see the candidates simply fight with one another during the CNN debate but suggested that such a format ultimately does not help the voters:

[I]t’s less like a debate and more like reality television. And I'm not sure that best serves the American people. They care about jobs, the economy, terrorism, and health care, what we're going to do to help our veterans. I don't think by goading these candidates into school-yard bullying necessarily helped the people understand where they stand in terms of policy.

McCarren also noted that one of the major problems with the CNN debate was how “the most used word of the night was Jake, Jake, Jake. It should not have been.” While McCarren felt the CNN debate was a poor format to help the voters, Democratic strategist Joe Trippi argued that the cable network got exactly what it wanted:

Jake Tapper did exactly what he said he was going to do, mix it up. Let the candidates have it out. I think the problem with that were twofold, one they went after –and it was set up this way by CNN for them to go after each other…And then at the other one, they didn't get to economy and economic -- some of the issues that I agree voters would have been interested in, because they hadn't been beating up each other on the economy.

See relevant transcript below.

Fox News’ MediaBuzz

September 20, 2015

HOWARD KURTZ: Andrea McCarren, CNN's whole approach of let's round up all the bad things said to each other, throw it out there and make them go at it, did that work?

ANDREA MCCARREN: Well, 23 million people watched it so I guess it worked to some extent, but it’s less like a debate and more like reality television. And I'm not sure that best serves the American people. They care about jobs, the economy, terrorism, and health care, what we're going to do to help our veterans. I don't think by goading these candidates into school-yard bullying necessarily helped the people understand where they stand in terms of policy.

KURTZ: Some of the exchanges were substantive, a lot of it was he said he didn't like your face kind of thing, but it's a very different style then Fox News used, when Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier and Chris Wallace pressed the candidates with very detailed questions and they mixed it up, but it wasn't you know he said this about you, so your thoughts?

MERCEDES SCHLAPP: I love to make this comparison. If the Fox News debate was like catholic schools, so you know it's very routine, its 9:00 to 9:30 mass, 9:30 to 10:00 English, but then you go to the CNN debate and it was Montessori school.

MCCARREN: It was.

SCHLAPP: Unstructured, how do you feel, let's talk about personalities -- you know it was such a different approach. I think both have benefits, though.

MCCARREN: And the most used word of the night was Jake, Jake, Jake. It should not have been.

KURTZ: Well, that raises a related question here. But before I get to that, one of the entertaining aspects of this debate is the many faces of Donald Trump. He had these great reaction shots. But to the extent to which CNN didn't use a bell to tell the candidates you're out of time in this segment, and so Tapper had to keep cutting them off and then it was Jake, Jake, Jake and people interrupted. Did it seem to you it was out-of- control at times?

JOE TRIPPI: It definitely got out-of-control. But I think again, Jake Tapper did exactly what he said he was going to do, mix it up. Let the candidates have it out. I think the problem with that were twofold, one they went after –and it was set up this way by CNN for them to go after each other, so Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama suffered almost no blows at all during the entire debate because of the way it was structured. And then at the other one, they didn't get to economy and economic -- some of the issues that I agree voters would have been interested in, because they hadn't been beating up each other on the economy.

KURTZ: And Joe, they also didn't get very much to Mike Huckabee and Scott Walker and Rubio getting as few as two or three substantive questions and therefore trying to bust in. And look, the front-runners always get more time, but...

TRIPPI: But also he hadn't said anything bad about anybody, there was no reason to ask you a question.

KURTZ: Interesting.

SCHLAPP: You're right


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