Who Is Jake Tapper? The GOP Debate Moderator Has A Habit Of Asking The Tough Questions
Jake Tapper, author and CNN journalist, will moderate Wednesday's GOP debate, which will air on CNN. (If you don't have access to cable, the network is also offering a free livestream of the Republican debate online and through the CNN apps. Tapper anchors CNN's weekday news show The Lead with Jake Tapper, as well as CNN's State of the Union on Sundays. Jake Tapper wants the Republican debate to feature the 11 candidates addressing each other, rather than talking to the camera, CNN reports.
Tapper, who's won three Merriman Smith Memorial Awards for broadcast journalism, has never been one to shy away from asking interview subjects the hard questions. Just this past Sunday, Tapper grilled Republican presidential hopeful Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisc.) about Walker's alleged ties to the Koch brothers.
"What the team and I have been doing is trying to craft questions that, in most cases, pit candidates against the other — specific candidates on the stage — on issues where they disagree, whether it's policy, or politics, or leadership," Tapper told Brian Stelter on CNN's Reliable Sources. "Let's actually have them discuss and debate."
Wednesday's debate will take place at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. If Tapper wants to "pit candidates against" each other, as he told Stelter, the debate is crafted so that candidates will have a minute and 30 seconds to respond if another candidate mentions them by name. And if Tapper's past interview history is any indication, he's going to ask opposing candidates pretty difficult questions.
Walker, who will appear in Wednesday's debate, didn't provide an explicit answer when Tapper asked him about his ties to the Koch brothers on Sunday. Tapper said the Koch brothers were "special interests" after Walker said he was taking on special interest groups in Washington. It's one thing for interview subjects to deflect answers on shows like State of the Union, but Tapper probably won't let candidates off as easily during the GOP debate. (After the show, Tapper wasn't afraid to tweet that Walker "appears to struggle to take positions" on political issues.)
Walker isn't the only candidate in Wednesday's debate whom Tapper has grilled before, though. In August, Tapper wasn't afraid to ask Trump about his statement that Fox News' Megyn Kelly had "blood coming out of her wherever" during an interview, though Trump denied any wrongdoing. On a State of the Union episode in June, meanwhile, Tapper asked Trump about his line of ties, the majority of which are manufactured in China.
Tapper suggested it was "hypocritical" of Trump to criticize Ford's job outsourcing of car manufacturing to Mexico, since Trump outsources his tie production. Trump responded that he "wouldn't let them manipulate their currency" in the way China does. Though Trump tried to explain his position, Tapper appeared unconvinced.
In an interview on The Lead with Jake Tapper, which aired in July, Tapper spoke with GOP presidential hopeful Ben Carson, who will also be participating in Wednesday's debate. Tapper suggested that by supporting the Republican party's plan to defund Planned Parenthood, Carson would be helping Republicans get rid of "vital medical procedures" that Planned Parenthood makes available to women, which Carson, "as a doctor," would understand. Tapper presented the most common argument against the Republican plan to defund Planned Parenthood — that none of the government's money would go to supporting abortions, so they'd really be detracting from offering services like mammograms. Carson responded by saying that "all of the services" Planned Parenthood offers in addition to abortion are available through "multiple other sources." Carson went on to say that Planned Parenthood "doesn't seem to understand the sanctity of human life."
Tapper wasn't having the topic deflection, though, telling Carson, "I know you oppose abortion," before changing the subject to medical research involving fetal tissues. (Unfortunately for Tapper, however, during the same interview, he also offered Carson his condolences for the loss of his mother, who had actually recovered from a recent medical issue and was, in fact, still alive. "I appreciate that, but she actually sprang back," Carson told Tapper, correcting his mistake.)
But lest you think Tapper is saving the difficult questions for Republican candidates, keep in mind that Tapper has been equally critical of Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton. In a July tweet, Tapper questioned Clinton's claim that she's "never had a subpoena." Tapper cited a report from Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), chair of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, in which Gowdy allegedly stated that Clinton "was personally subpoenaed" when the Benghazi Committee learned about Clinton's use of a personal email address for government business.
I'm eager to see just what questions Tapper uses to "pit candidates" against each other, but if Tapper's previous interviews with the presidential hopefuls are any indication, we're definitely in for a memorable debate.