CNN Stocked Audience and Controlled Thursday's Debate Questions

November 17th, 2007 1:20 PM

There's a great deal of controversy brewing concerning implications that CNN not only stocked the audience at Thursday's Democrat Presidential debate, but also controlled the questions attendees asked.

So much for Wolf Blitzer not caving into pressure from the Clinton campaign.

*****Update: It looks like all six "undecided voters" set up to ask questions at the debate were plants. More at end of post!

One of the most delicious incidents from the debate was reported Friday by Marc Ambinder at the Atlantic magazine blog (emphasis added (h/t Allah at Hot Air):

Maria Luisa, the UNLV student who asked Hillary Clinton whether she preferred "diamonds or pearls" at last night's debate wrote on her MySpace page this morning that CNN forced her to ask the frilly question instead of a pre-approved query about the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.

"Every single question asked during the debate by the audience had to be approved by CNN," Luisa writes. "I was asked to submit questions including "lighthearted/fun" questions. I submitted more than five questions on issues important to me. I did a policy memo on Yucca Mountain a year ago and was the finalist for the Truman Scholarship. For sure, I thought I would get to ask the Yucca question that was APPROVED by CNN days in advance."

Luisa wrote at MySpace:

CNN ran out of time and used me to "close" the debate with the pearls/diamonds question. Seconds later this girl comes up to me and says, "you gave our school a bad reputation.' Well, I had to explain to her that every question from the audience was pre-planned and censored. That's what the media does. See, the media chose what they wanted, not what the people or audience really wanted.

Fascinating. Yet, this story gets more delicious, for according to CNN's transcript of the debate, Luisa's real name is Maria Parra Sandoval (video of her question to Clinton available here):

BLITZER: Thank you, Governor.

Suzanne, go ahead.

Maria, would you stand please? Give us your full name.

MARIA PARRA SANDOVAL (ph): Maria Parra-Sandoval (ph), and I'm a UNLV student. And my question is for Senator Clinton.

This is a fun question for you. Do you prefer diamonds or pearls?

A reader at Dan Riehl's Riehl World View accurately pointed out that Parra-Sandoval used to be an intern for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada).

Yet, that wasn't the only planted audience member/questioner Thursday evening. As also reported by Riehl (h/t Glenn Reynolds and Allah):

Okay, forgive me if there are two LaShannon Spencers here. But ... from last night:

LaShannon Spencer, who was identified as a member of the First African Methodist Church, asked the question near the top of the 10 pm Eastern hour. She highlighted how health care and the Iraq war had, in her view, dominated the questions during past debates.

Would that be the same LaShannon Spencer who is, or at least was the political director of the Democrat Party of Arkansas? She certainly didn't sound too undecided back in 2003 - though I suppose she could be an undecided voter as billed by CNN.

Lashannon Spencer, political director for the Arkansas Democratic Party, commented on her favorite part of Clinton's book.

"How she describes actually meeting Bill ... I enjoyed how they were both willing to put their lives on hold so each one of them fulfilled their dreams," Spencer said.

Allah captured the above photo of her from the debate, and linked to an August 8, 2003, New York Times article about Spencer with the following picture:

See a resemblance? Those interested should note Spencer's Democrat fundraising totals here and here.

Another plant was Khalid Khan as Eric at Classical Values reported (h/t Allah):

From the CNN transcript:

MALVEAUX: Our next questions is -- Khalid Khan, if you would please stand for a moment. You and I spoke very briefly, and you said you have some concerns about racial profiling.

KHALID KHAN: Yes, I do. I am an American citizen and have been profiled all the time at the airport. Since 9/11, hundreds of thousands of Americans have been profiled. And, you know, it is like a harassment.

KHAN: My question is that -- our civil liberties have been taken away from us. What are you going to do to protect Americans from this kind of harassment?


OK, I have no way of knowing the extent to which Mr. Khan has been subjected to profiling. But he is not an ordinary citizen. For years he has been a prominent Muslim leader -- the president of the Islamic Society of Nevada, who has hosted conferences like this one (which included the controversial Muzzamil Siddiqi), and the first sentence in a piece in the LA Times described him as "a stalwart among Las Vegas Muslims."

Nor, as it turns out, is Khalid Khan a stranger to CNN. From the transcript of a show last year called "keeping the faith in Sin City -- a surprising look at how Muslims manage to live and work under the glitz, greed and sex in Las Vegas.":

ZAHN: Our special hour tonight continues with a "Top Story" out of Las Vegas, where Muslim prayer rugs and the Las Vegas Strip collide, and collide in a big way.

Islam forbids Vegas standbys, like gambling, alcohol and strip shows. Yet, 14,000 Muslims live and work in Vegas. So, how do they all get along?

Let's turn to Ted Rowlands, who joins us from Vegas tonight. And he has the latest details for us.


ROWLANDS: The president of the Islamic Society here estimates, there are 14,000 Muslims living in Las Vegas, trying to follow the stringent rules of Islam in Sin City.

KHALID KHAN, PRESIDENT, ISLAMIC SOCIETY: It is a challenge to them. It is a challenge, that they see all these temptation around them, and, still, they just ignore them.

Add it all up, and CNN stocked the questionning members of the audience with -- at the very least, as who knows what else the blogosphere will identify?!? -- a former intern for Sen. Reid, a former head of the Arkansas Democrat Party, and a prominent Muslim leader.

Honestly, folks, the Democrats made a huge stink about not appearing in any debate sponsored by Fox News for fear of its biases. Yet, it seems a metaphysical certitude that FNC, with all the focus upon it, wouldn't have dared exhibit such obvious partiality.

In fact, just imagine the uproar that would have emanated from press members if Fox had employed such shenanigans. This likely would have been the lead story of all three broadcast network news programs Friday, as well as featured every hour on the hour at CNN and MSNBC.

Of course, maybe this explains why the Democrats refused the FNC debates in the first place, which would be an interesting story for a news magazine like "60 Minutes," "Dateline," or "20/20" if they weren't all vested in the same hypocrisy.

Liberal media bias? What liberal media bias?

As an aside, I want to congratulate and applaud the work of the bloggers mentioned in this report. As much as the legacy media disingenuously position themselves as advocates of the people and free speech, the new media continue to be the only ones demonstrating democratic principles our Founding Fathers would be in any way proud of.

*****Update: As Doug Ross reports here, it seems that all six of the supposed "undecided voters" set up to ask questions at Thursday's debate were plants! Will this be discussed in detail on tomorrow's political talks shows, or totally ignored?

*****Update II: Jenny Bea at The War Against Political Correctness has much more, including the following fabulous observations --

The ONLY thing that has yet to be figured out, is who made the decision to pick these specific people to be the ones delivering questions? Was it someone working for CNN? The DNC? Could it have been a collaborated effort of employees of both organizations? Who decided that those people would be called upon?

And which candidates knew ahead of time? That could be left up to conspiracy, however, one thing remains crystal clear: These people were not the average undecided democratic voters they were presented to the American people to be. These people have big backgrounds, and the proof is irrefutable. The only thing that needs to happen now is the media needs to grab onto it. But some of us bloggers already know and are working hard to get it out.

As a proud American, I feel deceived and manipulated. And you should, too. I feel that it is my duty as a citizen of a free society to get the truth- and verifiable evidence- to the public. This is not a “fire doesn’t melt steel” conspiracy. This is “Dan Rather Loses His Job for Fake Reporting”. And the bloggers did again in relentless search for what really happened. Ala Lindsay Lohan, “They weren’t my pants!!”

They lied to us. They lied to all of us. It’s not really surprising, knowing the lows they’d sink to for potential votes, but it should be awakening to the People that what we are fed by the media as “news” is in fact, not news. We are fed total BS, by some audacious person(s) making the decision of what gets reported.

How true, Jenny -- and how sad.