During the election’s 24-hour news cycle, an array of Trump surrogates pulled off some outrageous claims. Much of this was due to their candidate and his controversial rhetoric that became the norm on cable network screens. That Trump’s bombastic nature became conventional was to the credit of his spin masters — including Kellyanne Conway, Katrina Pierson, and Paul Manafort — who could weave a story through so many cycles that people would forget what the segment was originally about.
Most anchors would rather throw their hands up than argue with brick-wall surrogates, but there were certainly some holdouts who cut through the bullsh*t. Megyn Kelly was an early standout who went toe-to-toe with Trump and stood her ground tirelessly, though she softened up during their solo interview. One anchor who never let people off the hook was CNN’s Jake Tapper, whose work was a constant reminder that cable news can feature civil conversations between adults.
The CNN anchor never interrupted a surrogate or treated them with disrespect, but he did challenge them, and he did so with a cool and collected demeanor. Whenever an interview segment could have devolved into a shouting match, Tapper would firmly push back and not let guests skate by with prepared remarks. It was an attitude that produced some engrossing interviews and propelled Tapper to MVP election status. Not only that, but Tapper’s resolute manner makes him an indispensable asset for the coming four years (and beyond).
Here are a few of Tapper’s best moments from this year.
Tapper Had No Patience For Diversion Tactics
Several Trump surrogates specialized in the art of diversion. Anchors would question surrogates over the latest outlandish thing to come out of Trump’s mouth, only to be greeted with a changed subject. This provided for a never ending cycle of literal face palms by the anchors. Trump’s human deflection machine would come in many forms, but there was no one more willing to bend over backwards than Katrina Pierson. She was never the most prepared of the Trump surrogates with answers often spiraling into nonsensical ramblings that led nowhere.
The below example saw Pierson lambast Clinton’s infamous “basket of deplorables” comment. She claimed it was not fair for “deplorables” to be called racist simply because they want stop ISIS. Tapper was quick to counterpoint how, in this instance, “deplorables” referred to those who leveled Islamophobic rhetoric. Pierson didn’t back down, but Tapper wasn’t having any of it: “Katrina … no one has called people who don’t want ISIS to move into their neighborhood ‘Islamophobic.’ That has never happened in the history of the world.” While some anchors may have shown frustration, Tapper prevailed with a cooler head.
Tapper Could Temporarily Tame Even The Most Ardent Trump Surrogate
If there was one storied rivalry between a media personality and Trump surrogate this election season, it was between Tapper and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Their rivalry wasn’t on par with infamous ones such as Hatfield and McCoys or Swift and Perry, but the contentious discourse between the two was a certainty. And one of their most noteworthy segments came after Trump’s infamous “locker room talk” conversation was released. Nearly all of his cohorts seemed uncomfortable defending him except for Giuliani, who was relaxed in his defense.
Trump’s comments were outright predatory, and Tapper insisted Trump wasn’t some high school jock talking with his buddies. He was, at the time, a 59-year-old man saying he has a free pass to grope women. So, Tapper didn’t buy Giuliani’s justification that Trump was just being male.
It’s important to note that Tapper wasn’t simply thumbing his nose at Giuliani. He was making a concentrated effort to lay out the whole picture of how the comments are not just simple talk, but that they can have repercussions down the way. It’s this Bobby Fisher-esque analysis of why Tapper made himself stand out from the pack this election season. While some in the media were concerned with the moment and Trump surrogates were doing immediate PR recovery, Tapper appeared to be looking at the precedent this situation could set. This type of approach even got the stubborn Giuliani to come around.
Tapper Even Takes His Own Network To Task
We’ve seen how Tapper could cut through the smoke and mirrors of the Trump campaign, but the CNN anchor also holds his own network accountable. One particular instance saw CNN host white nationalists discussing if Jews were people, and the question was literally typed out on the chryon. This was a stunning segment to behold, as neo-Nazis have collected an unusual amount of press lately and in some ways have been normalized by the media. Tapper was on vacation at the time, but he still took some time to call out show’s producers for the infraction and apologize.
At the end of the day, anchors are still people, and Tapper’s tweets came across as someone who was truly bummed that his channel hosted white nationalists. Ever the professional, Tapper kept a watchful eye on his post and made sure his program was still being held to standard.
Tapper’s Still Exposing Spinmasters After The Election
In an election year, an anchor may be more scrupulous with their reporting. People are choosing the leader of the free world, so networks want to provide voters with as much information as possible. And 2016 was no different; in fact, you could say there was an overabundance of information being shared. But the best anchors question everything that slides across their desk.
Tapper still holds steady as the post-election lull has stressed people out. In this interview with Paul Ryan, Tapper called out the House to comment upon the rampant hate crimes occurring throughout the country. And Tapper didn’t let Ryan off the hook until he admitted these hate crimes are awful but said they do not reflect Republican values.
It’s a sign that Tapper is a trusted voice who will continue to battle and wade through never-ending spin cycles. Here’s to you, Jake Tapper!