WashPost Hammers CNN for Going Soft on Democrats on This Common Debate Tactic

Washington Post media blogger Erik Wemple, who writes many blogs inveighing against his nemesis Tucker Carlson and Fox News, turned around and questioned CNN on Thursday. He asked "Why is CNN making things easier for Democrats?" This sounds like a daily question for many of us, but he's referring to the debates in Detroit on July 30 and 31. 

CNN has announced its rules for the candidates, and Wemple was vexed by "There will be no show of hands or one-word, down-the-line questions." Obviously, the unanimous raising of hands that ten Democrats gave NBC on providing government subsidized health care for illegal immigrants became quite a theme. He admitted the questions can be "cheesy," but he felt Democrat contenders would be relieved that those questions would bedevil them. 

Even if CNN decided that it doesn’t like the theater of such questions; even if CNN decided that it doesn’t want its debates to make headlines; even if CNN decided that it didn’t want to put the candidates on the spot regarding contemporary controversies; even if CNN decided that it didn’t want good ratings; even if CNN decided that, somehow, these sorts of questions were journalistically corrupt, why would it broadcast this limitation in a public release?

Why would it crimp its moderators — Dana Bash, Don Lemon and Jake Tapper — by plucking a wrench from their toolboxes?

Wemple guessed that CNN was going soft on the Democrats as a tactic to sweeten its chances for more debates as the long campaign rolls out. 

So did this unfortunate dynamic play a role in CNN disarming its own moderators? Here are the questions that the Erik Wemple Blog posed to CNN: “Was that the idea of CNN or of the candidates/DNC? Did anyone other than CNN suggest this restriction? Why limit the sorts of questions that your moderators may ask? Aren’t yes-or-no questions sometimes critical for journalism?”

A CNN spokeswoman answered, “It was a decision made by CNN.” As to whether that decision was influenced by the Democratic National Committee or Democratic presidential campaigns, a company source said it was reached “with zero input or pressure from anyone.”

We also asked the same question of the DNC: Did it have any discussions with CNN about this matter? No on-the-record response has emerged.

Wemple believes these questions can make news, which is what you would think news networks would want to do when they host debates. He recalled that at the very first GOP debate, Fox's Bret Baier asked the candidates "Is there anyone on stage — and can I see hands — who is unwilling tonight to pledge your support to the eventual nominee of the Republican Party and pledge to not run an independent campaign against that person?”

Donald Trump raised his hand, because he loves stirring the pot and keeping people guessing. And that made news. 

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