CNN Defends Debate, Says Vetting Was 'Focused on the Questions'

November 29th, 2007 6:14 PM

CNN is defending its job in vetting questions for last night's debate, reports Politico's Kenneth Vogel:

The retired general who quizzed Republican presidential candidates about gays and lesbians in the military was not the only person linked to a Democratic presidential candidate who got to ask a question at Wednesday’s CNN/YouTube debate.

CNN also aired questions from supporters of Democratic candidates John Edwards and Barack Obama.

And that’s fine by the network, which is standing by its question selection process and lashing out at critics who say the debate demonstrated CNN’s liberal bias.

“We’re focused on the questions, not the questioners,” said Sam Feist, CNN’s political director.

There might be something to that approach. As our own Brad Wilmouth reported, the questions largely pressed the Republican field from the right.:

Wednesday night's CNN/YouTube presidential debate for the Republican candidates largely lived up to its promise to be a debate fitting for Republican voters as the vast majority of the questions used were asked from a conservative point of view. But the GOP debate's slant toward conservative questions was less than the July 23 CNN/YouTube Democratic debate's slant toward liberal questions. On Wednesday, out of a total of 34 video questions presented, conservative questions outnumbered liberal questions by 14 to 8, with the remaining questions ideologically ambiguous or neutral. During the Democratic debate, out of a total of 38 video questions, the slant toward liberal questions came in at 17 liberal to 6 conservative, with the remainder ambiguous or neutral.

Of course, CNN gets a huge demerit for giving Clinton backer Keith Kerr a live platform to press the candidates on a liberal agenda item, and the network can and should feel the heat from conservatives for that.

And yes, it is notable that a number of the selected questioners are NOT undecided Republicans but liberal voters already committed to Democratic primary candidates (see Malkin).

But that having been said, other bloggers, such as Gabriel Malor at Ace of Spades, caution that conservatives should not blow the YouTube debate's shortcomings out of proportion and overextend the biased MSM storyline:

The worst part about the outraged protestations I’ve read is that they rely on a series of ever more outlandish assumptions. With the exception of the general, none of the questioners were inappropriate and none of them were “plants.” Michelle Malkin spent the day updating her lead story about the questioners who have been discovered to be supporting Democratic candidates. The only way her outrage works is if we make a wild assumption: the questioners were supposed to be conservative or Republican.

It’s silly to pretend that we thought the questioners would all be Republicans. The YouTube submission contest noted that it would take questions from all comers. The candidates at both this debate and the Democratic one in August understood that they would face questions from people of all political affiliations. You’ll note that if this debate had been moderated by CNN anchors like Wolf Blitzer or Anderson Cooper, such an understanding would have been patent.

Have you noticed what’s missing from Michelle Malkin’s front page? There is no discussion of the content of the questions posed by the so-called plants. At all. The John Edwards-supporting abortion questioner? That was a good question about how criminal penalties will be assigned (woman or doctor or both) if abortion is criminalized. Fred Thompson had a great answer, but I bet you didn’t read about it in the Right blogosphere today. The same goes for the questions posed by the union activist, the Barack Obama supporter, the Dick Durbin fellow, the Bill Richardson supporter, etc.


This debate was a great success both for our candidates in general, and for a few specific candidates in particular (Mike Huckabee, damn your eyes). And we’re blowing it on a silly tantrum that doesn’t even make sense. Welcome to the era of perpetual outrage and victimhood at the hands of the “MSM.”

So what say you? Is Malor right in his criticism, or is he downplaying CNN's responsibility to find genuinely conservative, Republican questioners for the GOP debate, even if many of the questions were worded neutrally?