Is CNN campaigning for Rep. Joe Walsh's Democratic opponent? In a heated exchange with Walsh on Thursday, anchor Ashleigh Banfield rattled off a list of opponent Tammy Duckworth's accomplishments and admitted "she should get elected" if voters are pleased with her resume.
CNN gave much softer treatment to Duckworth on Friday. Host Wolf Blitzer did press her about controversial statements she has made, but also tossed her softball questions and gave her an opportunity to explain her stances on issues that matter to voters -- an opportunity CNN did not give Walsh.
Blitzer asked her softballs like "Do you have a problem that he [Walsh] never served in the military?" after Walsh had accused her of incessantly touting her own military service.
Meanwhile, this past Wednesday Blitzer did interview Walsh, but only to elicit the response he was looking for: Duckworth is a "true hero" for her service. He did not ask Walsh to expound on his political platform, talk about economic issues, or explain the difference between him and Duckworth.
Blitzer did ask Duckworth those questions on Friday, letting her explain her stances on the issues voters care about. "What's the biggest difference, in your opinion, constituents out there in Illinois should know about when it comes to economic policy, economic issues between you and Walsh?" Blitzer asked Duckworth.
"If he [Walsh] is watching right now, is there anything you want to say to him directly?" Blitzer asked again.
If the media covers one specific House race out of 435, it probably has an agenda. CNN called the race between Walsh and Duckworth one of the "most watched and nastiest" in the country, but put most of its glare on the Tea Party congressman for his "nasty" comments.
On Thursday afternoon, an exasperated Banfield listed Duckworth's accomplishments on-air, in response to Walsh's question if voters should elect Duckworth purely because of her military service. "You know what? She should get elected if her voters like the fact that she has a list of accomplishments," Banfield said before listing Duckworth's exploits.
"[S]he has a list of accomplishments, when it comes to tax credits for Illinois businesses, she established the first veteran's caucus, she started up a...24-hour crisis hotline for veterans. She created the vets cash grant program. She established the nation's first health issue insurance program for vets. She created the GI loan for heroes," Banfield stated.
She went right after Walsh at the beginning of the interview, for his comments about Duckworth's military service. "Sir, you are taking it on the chin for this. Are you regretting making those comments?" she pressed him.
Meanwhile, Blitzer simply asked Duckworth to respond to Walsh's remarks, as his first question to her. "What do you say to his specific charge that the only thing you really want to talk about, Tammy, is your military service, you don't want to talk about the specific economic, social issues that are important to constituents out there?"
Blitzer did press Duckworth over comments she made about Walsh, and over her campaign tactics. However, given CNN's two interviews of Walsh and interview of Duckworth, it is clear that the Democratic candidate got the better treatment of the two.
"He's used some nasty words, but you've also suggested, among other things, that Walsh is an extremist loud mouth for the Tea Party. Back in April, you said there's not a crackpot Tea Party idea that he hasn't embraced. Is that appropriate to use that kind of language against a sitting United States congressman?" Blitzer asked Duckworth.
A brief transcript of the interviews, which aired on The Situation Room, is as follows:
THE SITUATION ROOM
6:31 p.m. EDT
WOLF BLITZER: (to Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.)) Congressman, thanks very much for coming in. Do you regret what you said about your opponent, who lost two legs fighting for the United States in Iraq, that she's not, in your words, a true hero?
BLITZER: Let's just clarify, then, Congressman. Do you believe Tammy Duckworth is a true hero?
KATE BOLDUAN: But Congressman, you are a smart man. You have been in politics. You're finishing your two years in Congress now. You had to have known that, in questioning something that is beloved by so many Americans, military service, that this was a touchy subject, a risk. I mean, was that a mistake, because you are in a tough re-election battle here?
BLITZER: A lot of veterans do talk about their service. They are very proud of their military service. And I'm sure Tammy Duckworth is one of them, very proud of what she's accomplished.
BLITZER: We've invited, by the way, Tammy Duckworth to join us here in The Situation Room. Unfortunately, she couldn't on this Fourth of July, but she's got an invitation to come on, and we'll talk about some of these issues.
I'm glad we did clarify, Congressman Walsh, your point where you are saying right now, flatly, you do believe Tammy Duckworth, your opponent – you disagree with her on a lot of issues – but you do believe that what she did in Iraq as a U.S. military personnel, as a U.S. member of the U.S. military, that she is, in fact, a true hero.
THE SITUATION ROOM
4:25 p.m. EDT
WOLF BLITZER: One of this year's most watched and nastiest congressional races in Illinois where a Tea Party Republican incumbent faces a Democrat who's a veteran of the war in Iraq.
KATE BOLDUAN: And right now, the non-partisan Cook political report calls this the surest Democratic pick-up for House races across the country. So Duckworth is expected to win this one, Wolf.
BLITZER: (to Tammy Duckworth) What do you say to his specific charge that the only thing you really want to talk about, Tammy, is your military service, you don't want to talk about the specific economic, social issues that are important to constituents out there?
TAMMY DUCKWORTH: So he's trying to actually shift the focus away from his irresponsible actions as a congressman by attacking military service, and that's irresponsible in his words.
BLITZER: I don't know if he's attacking military service, but he's clearly attacking you. What's the biggest difference, in your opinion, constituents out there in Illinois should know about when it comes to economic policy, economic issues between you and Walsh?
BLITZER: He repeatedly says John McCain, a war hero to be sure, he never really spoke that much about his own personal experiences as a POW in Vietnam, for example. But that's all he says you talk about, your war experiences. You want to respond to what Walsh is saying?
BLITZER: Do you have a problem that he never served in the military?
BLITZER: I agree that the differences on substantive policy issues are what the two of you should be debating about. He's used some nasty words, but you've also suggested, among other things, that Walsh is an extremist loud mouth for the Tea Party. Back in April, you said there's not a crackpot Tea Party idea that he hasn't embraced. Is that appropriate to use that kind of language against a sitting United States congressman?
DUCKWORTH: I think it's appropriate against a gentleman who says that he wants to be the poster child for the Tea Party.
BLITZER: Do you have a problem – he says that you send – you and your campaign, I assume that's what he means – someone to videotape all of his speaking engagements, to watch him wherever he goes. Is that an issue as far as you're concerned?
BLITZER: If he's watching right now, is there anything you want to say to him directly?
BLITZER: Are you willing, Tammy, to come on our show and debate him directly?