Sunday, November 18, 2007

CNN debate: the Las Vegas disgrace

Remember that final question about diamonds vs. pearls? Well, it seems that student wanted to ask a serious question about the Yucca Mountain, but CNN wouldn't let her.

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."

Here's CNN's defense.

But in the network's defense the spokesperson also says that the girl wasn't "forced" to ask it. She submitted the question in advance -- it was her question -- and voluntarily agreed to ask it. CNN selected the question and asked her towards the close of the debate if she wanted to ask it. She said yes.

As MissLaura sarcastically notes:

Oh, well then, that's ok! No problem with a so-called news network focusing on the appearance and devotion to consumerism of the first serious female presidential candidate ever. I'm so glad they cleared that up. Otherwise I might have had to question my faith in the awesomeness of CNN.

From a Las Vegas Democrat who was in the audience, though, she was very disappointed in the audience reaction of booing Hillary's main rivals when they started criticizing Hillary. Even the Hardball crew the next day noticed the intense pro-Hillary crowd. Chris Matthews even said the audience was "clearly prompted" in favor of Hillary, and later also said this on Friday's show:

"Anybody who boos on Peruvian trade deals, and has enough emotion to boo that one, clearly was prepped. Why would you boo about Peruvian trade in Nevada??"

He also talked about that "ringer" in the audience who was deliberately trying to shout down Obama when he was responding to questions early on. It got bad enough that Wolf Blitzer had to ask the audience to stop it. It didn't.

After the debate, many people were upset that a close friend of the Clintons, James Carville, was not disclosed as a Hillary supporter when he was doing the post-debate analysis. The New York Times even picked up on it, and CNN's president has apologized for the error.

CNN executives said they routinely reminded viewers of Mr. Carville’s affiliation in his segments. On Thursday, Anderson Cooper, the CNN host who moderated the round table, said, “I should point out David Gergen was an adviser in the Bill Clinton White House, as, of course, was James Carville.”

That was not enough for Jonathan Klein, the CNN president who said in an interview that the disclosure fell short.

“He’s not on the Hillary payroll, but he’s on the Hillary bandwagon, and that should be disclosed as much as we can,” Mr. Klein said. “I wasn’t comfortable with it myself as I watched it.

“He has disclosed all of this previously and repeatedly on our air,” he continued. “He happened not to last night, and it’s an unfortunate omission.”

All in all, it was a disgrace for CNN.

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