CNN's Bohrman: Unrepentant About Stupid YouTube Debate Tricks
CNN Washington Bureau Chief David Bohrman appeared on Sunday’s Reliable Sources to defend the CNN selection of liberals and Hillary supporters in disguise as questioners at the CNN-YouTube debate. Bohrman made several odd claims. They Googled Gen. Keith Kerr, the gay endorser of Hillary Clinton, but didn’t find the Hillary campaign documents, which was allegedly new to Google when it was found in minutes during the debate. They stopped investigating Kerr because he had a "great question...regardless of where he was from." Bohrman took the same position with the Edwards supporter they used. CNN does not agree that investigating the backgrounds of alleged grass-roots questioners is important. And in the wake of the Kerr backlash, CNN wishes they’d decided on a different Victim of Social Conservatives: "Let's use the gay linguist from Guantanamo who was dismissed."
First, the ever-changing Google exchange:
HOWARD KURTZ, host: David Bohrman, you said you didn't know -- that no one at CNN knew that General Kerr was on these Hillary Clinton advisory boards. Shouldn't you have tried harder to find out by using an online Google search?
DAVID BOHRMAN, CNN WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Well, we did a Google search. I mean, we went through 5,000 questions and narrowed it down and narrowed it down. And there were an awful lot of gay in the military questions. The one from the general was striking, but the first thing we said once we saw this question was, is this guy for real? Let's check him out.
We did a Google search. And, you know, if you Google him today you'll find all the Hillary Clinton references. Back then what we discovered is he's for real. He was a real brigadier general. He had -- he had a real career, and he was now active in gay and lesbian issues.
Kurtz did not follow up and ask: precisely when is "back then?" Two weeks before the debate? Two days? Two hours? It’s a little hard to believe that a six-month-old campaign document wouldn’t turn up in a Google search weeks before the debate. Borhman admitted they never asked the general if he had endorsed a candidate, because his question was so fantastic (and quite possibly embarrassing to Mitt Romney and other Republicans):
KURTZ: Right. But in the vetting process, no one ever asked him, "Are you affiliated with any presidential candidate?"
BOHRMAN: Right. But here's why we stopped. Here's why we stopped making sure that he was a real general and making sure that he hadn't contributed to a campaign. His question was great. All right?
You have a group of Republican candidates that have some difference of opinion on this topic. You have a true war hero in John McCain. You have Mitt Romney, who's on record as saying, I live for the day when gays and lesbians can serve openly, and a question coming from a general was extremely powerful, regardless...
KURTZ: All right. I will give you that.
BOHRMAN: ... regardless of where he is from.
After that, Kurtz asked former ABC and CBS reporter Linda Douglass (quite a liberal reporter in her heyday) if CNN had a black eye. She raised Michelle Malkin’s exposes and suggested the media should do a better job of investigating every questioner. Bohrman actually disagreed, and even insisted that "Journey" the John Edwards supporter asked a great question, so her partisan stance did not matter:
KURTZ: So do you think that CNN got a black eye from all of this?
LINDA DOUGLASS, NATIONAL JOURNAL: Well, and I certainly saw all of the Michelle Malkin -- the conservative blog unearth those affiliations. I think one of the questions we have to ask here as we begin to open up the debates to citizens who are able to submit questions on videotape is, how are they vetted anyway?
Certainly journalists who are on panels asking candidates questions go through a vetting process -- are you an experienced journalist, have you covered these issues, do you know what you're talking about? We don't want to ask those questions of citizens, but I think it may be the case that from now on, we want to ask every single person whose question is put on national television to a presidential candidate and the presidential candidate is required to answer that question, are you affiliated with a campaign, do you openly support someone? And cause some sort of answer to be made.
BOHRMAN: You know, look, I'd love to agree, but I don't. The question -- take a look at the debate. I watched it last night. It was replayed. It was a great debate. It was an extraordinary debate in that it focused on issues to help Republican voters make a choice between these candidates. It doesn't really matter that "Journey"-- if that was her name -- had an affiliation. She had a really good question. And these candidates dealt with it really exceedingly well.
One should not expect in YouTube when you -- people have lives, they have beliefs, but they post questions to engage the candidates. Candidates meet all sorts of people, and there should not be the complete bio of everyone who asks a question.
Howard Kurtz then asked if the Kerr question was a mistake, and Bohrman suggested they should have used a different gay star to suggest Republicans were homophobic:
KURTZ: I've got to move on, but was this incident involving General Kerr, looking back with the benefit of hindsight, was it a mistake?
BOHRMAN: It was -- I wish I would have known. It would have gone into our decision making, and our antenna are sharp enough to where I think I would have said, you know what? With the Hillary Clinton connection there's going to be a blow-back. Let's use the gay linguist from Guantanamo who was dismissed, or the IED demolitions expert who also had a really good question. But I think the process was good. The debate was the most interesting debate of them all.
Kurtz should have asked him if plucking out this kind of questioner makes for a loaded question. Of course, CNN did this with gays in the first YouTube debate also, with lesbians asking Democrats why they would be denied "marriage." But you don't see loaded-biography questions coming from the right at the Democrats, like a woman who regretted her abortion.
Finally, Jim Geraghty of National Review Online’s sharp Campaign Spot blog gave Bohrman a nice whack on the conservative stereotypes CNN plucked out for questions, and Bohrman offered a non-defense in reply:
KURTZ: Jim Geraghty, "The Weekly Standard" described the questioners as a threatening parade of gun fetishes, flat worlders, Mars explorers, confederate flag lovers, and zombie-eyed bible wavers.
GERAGHTY: Appalling. And America -- could you find anybody who asked a similar question regarding the Bible or religious beliefs that didn't look like they were auditioning to lead the Branch Davidians? Was there anybody who didn't look like a maniac who asked a similar vein of question?
BOHRMAN: YouTube is interesting. The Web is interesting. And guess what? The American public is pretty broad and diverse. These were -- this was a debate that from the beginning we knew and accepted would be completely examined. I mean, talk about transparency, all 5,000 questions are up. People can go and make all of their own decisions about the questions.
It’s quite amazing that after this hidden-Hillary-endorser fiasco, a CNN official would boast "Talk about transparency." The only thing transparent in their preparations for the YouTube debate was their political biases.