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CNN Anchor Jake Tapper Criticizes Media Coverage Of Presidential Race


In this campaign season, the media has received plenty of criticism. Even some journalists say the media isn't doing enough to hold candidates accountable. One well-known TV news anchor has decided to do something about it, as NPR's David Folkenflik reports.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: It's not just Donald Trump, Jake Tapper says, but Trump does loom awfully large in his thinking.

JAKE TAPPER: He has uttered some of the more extraordinary things that I've ever heard a major presidential candidate utter.

FOLKENFLIK: Tapper is a veteran political reporter who anchors an hour-long news program for CNN six days a week, including the network's prestige Sunday public affairs show.

TAPPER: One of the things that has concerned me this election cycle is the advocating of any sort of moral responsibility that we in the media have in terms of he-said, she-said coverage.

FOLKENFLIK: Tapper says lingering unease turned into journalistic action in late May. Here Tapper was on his weekday CNN show "The Lead."


TAPPER: Every time you think this race cannot get any more ludicrous, it does. This latest episode started this morning when Trump cited a bizarre and completely uncorroborated report - and I use the term report loosely - in the National Enquirer.

FOLKENFLIK: The Enquirer is owned by a Trump associate, and it published a cover story directly linking Ted Cruz's father to the assassin of President John F. Kennedy. Cruz was at the time still in the Republican race, just barely. That morning, Trump called in to Fox News's morning show.


DONALD TRUMP: His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald being, you know, shot. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous. What is this - right prior to his being shot. And nobody even brings it up. I mean, they don't even talk about that.

FOLKENFLIK: The Fox hosts didn't challenge him. Tapper told viewers on CNN the media didn't talk about it because there was no evidence linking the older Cruz to Lee Harvey Oswald.


TAPPER: So any suggestion that Cruz's father played a role in the Kennedy assassination is ridiculous and frankly shameful.

FOLKENFLIK: In the two weeks since, Tapper has been on fire. He denounced the State Department for editing a videotape to remove an embarrassing admission about nuclear negotiations with Iran.


TAPPER: Before we can get into why lies number one, two and three happened, the Obama administration needs to understand that it's not acceptable just to leave this where it is.

FOLKENFLIK: He also skewered Hillary Clinton for her past statements on her emails. Yet Tapper does not draw an exact equivalence. In an interview earlier this month, Tapper pressed Trump on his claims that a federal judge in California couldn't sit fairly on lawsuits involving Trump University.


TRUMP: I'm building a wall, OK? I'm building a wall.

FOLKENFLIK: The judge was born in Indiana to parents who had emigrated from Mexico. Trump kept telling Tapper the judge's rulings were wrong, implying connections the Clinton.


TAPPER: You're calling into question his heritage.

TRUMP: I think he should recuse himself.

TAPPER: Because he's Latino.

TRUMP: And then you also say...

FOLKENFLIK: Tapper repeatedly tried to drag the questions back to his point.


TAPPER: If you are saying he can't do his job because of his race, is that not the definition of racism?

TRUMP: No, I don't think so at all.


FOLKENFLIK: There's been movement in journalism toward fact-checking public statements. Tapper's new approach knits that fact-checking impulse with an explicit emphasis on fairness seemingly driven by Tapper's own definition of decency.

TAPPER: There needed to be something that in a broadcasting way would be able to stake a flag in the notion of, this is not true. This is factually false.

FOLKENFLIK: Today, Tapper went after Trump for his remarks after the mass shooting in Orlando. David Folkenflik, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.