Former President Jimmy Carter claimed he didn't raise a dime of money in the 1976 general election and CNN's Piers Morgan wouldn't challenge him on Thursday's Piers Morgan Tonight.
"As a matter of fact, when I ran against incumbent President Gerald Ford, you know how much money we raised? None," Carter bragged to Morgan. According to election law, general election campaigns couldn't take private money if they accepted public financing but Morgan still let Carter off the hook by refusing to question his claim of zero infractions.
All Morgan could muster was initial surprise, followed by admiration. "Seriously?" he reacted, and Carter went on to make the same claim for 1980: "When I ran four years later against Ronald Reagan, who was challenging me, we didn't raise any money. We didn't have any negative commercials. We just used a two-dollars-per-person check-off, and that was all the money we used for the campaign."
"That's extraordinary, isn't it?" Morgan said in awe. What's also extraordinary is CNN's prime-time interviewer letting former presidents brag of their records without any serious questioning or skepticism.
A transcript of the segment, which aired on February 21 on Piers Morgan Tonight at 9:18 p.m. EST, is as follows:
PIERS MORGAN: Has the role of president changed dramatically, do you think, since you were in the White House? I mean, when you look at the challenges facing President Obama and the way it now works in the modern age, what do you think of it?
JIMMY CARTER, former President of the United States: It's changed dramatically. As a matter of fact, when I ran against incumbent President Gerald Ford, you know how much money we raised? None.
CARTER: When I ran four years later against Ronald Reagan, who was challenging me, we didn't raise any money. We didn't have any negative commercials. We just used a two-dollars-per-person check-off, and that was all the money we used for the campaign.
MORGAN: That's extraordinary, isn't it?
CARTER: So the change that's been brought about, it's primarily because of a massive infusion of money into the political campaign.
MORGAN: Does that corrupt the political system?
CARTER: It corrupts the whole political system. It means, in effect, that almost every member of Congress running for re-election or governors running for election or presidents running for election are basically accepting massive legal bribes from people of special interests who want something in return in the future.
And the worst thing about it is that a large portion of that massive infusion of money, which has now been ordained stupidly by the Supreme Court from – from commercial organizations, is used for negative commercials. So their main technique is not to win an election, it's to destroy the reputation of your opponent.