WaPo: CNN coached audience to cheer for Hillary during town hall event

posted at 7:01 pm on June 21, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

When CNN rolled out the red carpet for Hillary Clinton’s town-hall interview with Christiane Amanpour, they did more than just build a set and invite an audience to participate. According to the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple, who attended the event, CNN warmed up the crowd for Hillary and even coached them on how to cheer and make noise to demonstrate enthusiasm for the former Secretary of State. Note the whoops at the beginning of the broadcast, and near the end of this clip when Amanpour asks about her decision on running for President — cheers that were part of the coaching Wemple reports:

To add “energy” to its show (attended by the Erik Wemple Blog), CNN deployed an enthusiastic stage director who coached the audience to applaud at various points throughout the broadcast — not in a partisan manner for Clinton, but for the sake of the town hall’s television optics. Approximately 15 minutes before the show, the producer ran the audience through a practice round of applause and noise-making. The results of the audience-prodding turn up in the show’s video.

Just how difficult was it for CNN to find a naturally enthusiastic audience, anyway? The event was staged in Washington DC, which as Wemple notes isn’t exactly a hotbed of conservative politics:

The event took place at the Newseum, which is on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington between the Capitol and the White House. The District is a blue jurisdiction that turned out 91 percent for President Obama in the 2012 election, and it’s surrounded by places like Arlington County, Va., and Montgomery County, Md. — also very blue spots.

If CNN is this worried about audience reaction to Hillary in this district, she’s in deep trouble indeed (as her less-than-enthusiastic ratings and book sales elsewhere indicate). So is CNN’s credibility, which Wemple skewers in his conclusion:

Whatever the optics, here’s the deal: If you’re a possible Democratic candidate, with or without a book to promote, and you want an experience that will elevate you, push for a CNN town hall in Washington. It’s hospitable turf.

No kidding. This wasn’t a daytime talk show on a broadcast network — like The View on ABC, for instance, which is entertainment and not news programming. This was on a cable news network and featured one of the network’s most high-profile reporters and news analysts. Instead of having an audience respond naturally and honestly, this news network instead chose to actively influence the audience into more positive and affirming responses for a politician on the cusp of a presidential campaign. Would they have coached an audience for a townhall interview with Mitt Romney, or Ted Cruz? Let’s just say it’s highly doubtful.


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