Tim Graham: Jake Tapper's audition

During the Trump presidency the CNN anchor has marched on the company line

CNN boss Jeff Zucker transformed CNN over the last five years into the most robotically ranting anti-Trump network on cable television.

It’s robotic because every anchor sounds like they’ve been sucked into the same vortex of hate.

Five years ago, conservatives would have named Jake Tapper as the closest thing CNN had to a host who asks challenging questions to both sides. But Tapper has marched on the company line with crusading Zucker-echoing “essays” on how horrendous this president is.

Tapper always sounds like he’s auditioning for prime time, a promotion from his 4 p.m. program. But he’s been prevented from breaking through to that scene by longtime hosts (Anderson Cooper, Don Lemon) and a Cuomo who interviews his governor brother like it’s an endearing comedy routine.

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An April 2017 Zucker profile in The New York Times Magazine presented a picture of Zucker feeding Tapper hostile questions into his earpiece during a typically combative live interview with Kellyanne Conway.

Everyone repeats Jeff. The message discipline is intense from dawn to midnight.  

Tapper routinely trashes Trump for his indecency. After the September 30 presidential debate, Tapper insisted Trump made children cry.

"We're all getting text messages from friends all over the country. A friend of mine in Kansas City watching her first debate with her sixth-grade daughter. Daughter bursts into tears, has to run to bed because she was so appalled, this sixth-grade girl, at what she saw from the president of the United States.”

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When the media proclaimed Joe Biden the winner of the election on November 7, Tapper welcomed the victory with another anti-Trump tirade:

“It has been a time where truth and fact were treated with disdain. It was a time of cruelty where official inhumanities such as child separation became the official shameful policy of the United States. But now the Trump presidency is coming to an end, to an end, with so many squandered opportunities and ruined potential, but also an era of just plain meanness. It must be said to paraphrase President Ford, for tens of millions of our fellow Americans, their long national nightmare is over.”

Later that evening, he equated Biden with decency and normalcy.

“We'll see how much congressional Republicans are willing to meet President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris on this field of decency and normalcy,” he lectured.  “It's not just President Trump that has been eroding norms of decency and he's had a lot of help from a lot of people on Capitol Hill. We'll see whether or not they want to come back to planet Earth and be good boys and girls and be decent and normal and adhere to facts and truth.”

Is that what CNN has modeled? Decency in speech? Normalcy in action? Always adhering to facts and not wild-eyed editorializing?  

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A real turning point for many conservatives was the Parkland, Florida “town hall” program that Tapper hosted in primetime on February 21, 2018.

Tapper made it clear that CNN decided the grieving student activists would not be questioned as they trashed Sen. Marco Rubio and NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch, who agreed to appear.

The students did not hold back. Cameron Kasky told Rubio he looked like Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland school shooter. Emma Gonzalez lectured Loesch that she would do a better job supporting and mothering Loesch’s children.

Tapper said nothing disapproving. Decency was left behind.

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This indecent spectacle then won a “Walter Cronkite Award.” But in the years to come, Tapper will win no awards for questioning the Biden team with one-tenth the intensity that he has brought to Team Trump.

We’ll see if all this hot CNN talk about “facts first” and “holding powerful people to account” still matters now that CNN’s long Trump “nightmare” is ending.

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