CNN’s Jake Tapper hopes to add depth to Sunday morning crowd
NEW YORK (AP) — CNN’s Jake Tapper, the third new host of a Sunday morning public affairs show to debut within the past year, says he hopes to attract viewers who want a little more depth to their political interviews.
Tapper starts Sunday on “State of the Union,” which airs at 9 a.m. EDT and is repeated three hours later. He replaces Candy Crowley.
John Dickerson began on CBS’ “Face the Nation” last week and Chuck Todd took over NBC’s “Meet the Press” last fall. The three main broadcast shows, including ABC’s “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos, dominate the space, with “State of the Union” getting between a third and a half of each show’s viewership over two airings. Fox’s show with Chris Wallace is in between, and also benefits from rebroadcasts on Fox News Channel.
It’s evident that his broadcast rivals feel the need to keep things moving, with multiple guests and briefer interviews, Tapper said. He wants longer interviews, which he hopes appeals to both potential guests and viewers.
“We have more time,” he said. “We’re not an entertainment company with a news division. We’re a news company.”
Tapper said that he, Dickerson and Todd share the conviction that there’s much more to their jobs than an hour on Sunday. Each spreads political news on social media. Tapper, like Stephanopoulos, has a regular weekday on-air gig, as host of his own hour-long news program at 4 p.m. EDT.
Tapper doesn’t hesitate to be provocative on his various platforms. He criticized Democrats online for marking Memorial Day by tweeting a picture of President Obama eating an ice cream cone, and criticized the U.S. for its muted presence at a demonstration honoring victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack. His new job won’t change his approach.
“We in the media have the job of holding people who are in politics accountable for what they say and what they do,” he said. “As long as you’re standing up for principle and not a partisan ideology, I feel perfectly comfortable taking a position that is holding people accountable. One of the reason people have lost faith in the media is because there hasn’t been enough of that.”
His goal each week is to make news, or at least offer people something they’d find interesting to discuss over breakfast. Tapper intends to try new ideas, although not all at once, with one prominent segment taking advantage of his one-time ambition to be a cartoonist.
The headline guest for his opening show is former President Bill Clinton. That’s a big “get” for a Sunday show, although the timing and arrangements weren’t ideal.
Tapper is interviewing Clinton onstage at a workshop being run by the Clinton Global Initiative this week in Denver. As part of the deal, CNN is allowed to film and air the talk.
Several other journalists have participated in Clinton foundation events in the past, including Tapper. The practice attracted little attention until Hillary Clinton began running for president and Stephanopoulos was criticized last month for donating $75,000 to Clinton’s foundation.
Tapper has made no such donation, and there doesn’t seem to be ethical concerns about the arrangement, said Aly Colon, a professor in journalism ethics at Washington & Lee University. But the appearance of being a frontman at a Clinton Global Initiative event at least raises the type of questions about independence that most journalists don’t want to see, he said. CNN management, negotiating for the appearance, had Tapper pulled as a moderator for another event at the conference and replaced by Poppy Harlow, another CNN reporter.
Tapper said there are no restrictions on what he can ask Clinton, although it was requested that some questions touch upon the conference’s subjects of the economy and health care.
He noted that it’s hardly unusual for much-sought interview subjects to have their own agendas. He compared it to interviewing former President George W. Bush for CNN last year, when it was requested the interview be done in Texas and Tapper ride in a charity bike race Bush was involved in.
“I wish I could have Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio do whatever I want them to do on my schedule in my studio,” Tapper said. “It’s just not the world that we live in.”