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CNN’s Jake Tapper On Hillary’s Gaggle And Letterman’s Career

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CNN’s Jake Tapper joined me to open the show today:




HH: Here is what Ed Henry had to say to her. This is sort of a taste of the press conference that unfolded today, cut number one:

HRC: Um-hmm, good point.

EH: Secretary Clinton, a question for you and…

HRC: Yeah, maybe when I finish talking to the people here. How’s that? I might. I have to ponder it, but I will put it on my list for due consideration.
HRC: Um-hmm, good point.

EH: Secretary Clinton, a question for you and…

HRC: Yeah, maybe when I finish talking to the people here. How’s that? I might. I have to ponder it, but I will put it on my list for due consideration.

HH: Honestly, Hillary is beginning to turn herself into the Disney evil stepmother. Joining me is Jake Tapper, CNN’s host of The Lead. Jake, what did you make of that exchange today?

JT: Well, I mean, I hope that we’re going to see a lot more of Secretary Clinton taking questions from reporters. I mean, that’s a good sign. I want more of that.

HH: I’ll come back to the questions she took and didn’t take, but I want to ask you about tonight, because I think tonight, you’ve got a special on David Letterman’s leaving television. I am curious as to why you did this, because I think it’s because, I’m ten years older than you, Johnny Carson is to my generation, I think what Letterman is to yours in that he sort of set the timing and the pacing for what is considered humor?

JT: Yeah, I think that’s right. I think it’s right. I mean, he was a tremendous on our pop culture, especially for people in my age bracket. I’m 46, and you know, he was very, very influential in terms of comedy, in terms of the popular culture, in terms of broadcasting, also. I mean, his, there are things about his broadcasting that I think are, had an influence on a lot of us, including his joy in word choice. And you know, I think that there are, you can hear and see his influence in broadcasting. And for me, honestly, you know, I like to, I cover popular culture every now and then on The Lead. It’s not all horrific news. Sometimes, we like to have a lighter experience. I know that you’re not immune to some of the more entertaining experiences out there.

HH: Oh, I had Mike Greenberg on last week. That was so much fun, Greeny from Mike and Mike in the morning.

JT: Yeah.

HH: I love doing stuff outside. But you get to talk to Jimmy Kimmel, Conan O’Brien and Seth Meyers about David Letterman.

JT: And to Paul Shaffer.

HH: That’s kind of cool.

JT: And we talk to Paul Shaffer, too. That was fun.

HH: (laughing)

JT: And then some of the people from the early days of the show, Director Hal Gurney, Merrill Markoe. And look, it was just an interesting project, and it enabled me to go back and revisit some of the skits I remember watching when I was in junior high and high school staying up late unbeknownst to my parents. And you know, I know that there are people out there who you know, he’s not their cup of tea. But he has had a 33 year broadcasting career that has been influential. Obviously, some bad moments in there, and we don’t shy away from them. We report on his very awful joke about Sarah Palin’s daughter, and we report on his sex scandal. And we report on his late night wars. But by the same token, there’s a lot of fun stuff, and it’s a trip down memory lane, I think, for people who have, who enjoyed that era of comedy in the 80s and 90s.

HH: Very few people can build, maintain and sustain an audience in the millions, and I think I can name them on one hand – Leno and Letterman, Rush Limbaugh, Oprah Winfrey. I think these are the people who, whatever you think of their politics, whatever, they maintain, build and sustain, and they shape the culture. Top Ten lists, stupid pet tricks, you cover this, I’m sure. These are Lettermanesque, and that’s what they’ll always be, right?

JT: Absolutely. I mean, and you know, he was one of the first broadcasters, if not the first really influential one, to show the seams, you know, to show people, to show the viewers the guy holding the cue cards, and behind the scenes, and walking backstage, and all the stuff that we’re not supposed to see. He had a real disdain for Hollywood phonies and for show business phonies, and got into a, there’s some really uncomfortable moments in those early years where he interviewed Cher, and she called him a name that begins with A. And he didn’t have a lot of tolerance for a lot of the nonsense of the business. And I have to say, Hugh, I mean, you’re an excellent broadcaster. You must, even if you disagree with his politics, or even if you’re not a huge fan, you must see the skills that he brings to the table in terms of…

HH: Yeah, timing.

JT: …yeah, his timing is impeccable.

HH: Timing, timing, timing, and funny, and he’ll draw out a laugh. Like I said, I’m 59, and so Carson drove the arc of what was funny in America for my generation. You’re, you know, 15 years younger than I am, and so it’s Letterman. And I think Seth Meyers and Colbert are doing it to the very next generation, but it’s always shaping. It’s always being shaped by television, late night television, though I don’t know there will ever be the unity of audience that he and Leno fought over. I’ve read a couple of books about that big war for television. It’s fascinating how they played that game, Jake Tapper.

JT: Oh, it’s incredible, and we have Bill Carter, who probably wrote the book that you read, the Late Shift, and another one called The War Over Late Night.

HH: Yes.

JT: …about these battles, where you know, hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake. But I think you hit on it. I mean, I don’t know that the model is the same anymore. Just, there are so many options on late night television, and the audiences are, they’re still strong, but they’re getting smaller, and people are more inclined to watch it on their own time. You can go to Comedy Central, you can go to TBS, you can go to all sorts of places. So the command that Leno and Letterman had, I don’t know that that’s going to exist in 10 or 20 years.

HH: I’m going to be watching it tonight. It says Letterman Says Goodnight tonight at 9pm Eastern, 6pm. I hope it airs again at 9pm so I can watch it when I get home. Now I want to switch back to Hillary and play for you…

JT: Yeah.

HH: …an extraordinary comment that she makes about Sidney Blumenthal, cut number four:

Reporter: Secretary Clinton, can you explain your relationship as Secretary of State with Sidney Blumenthal? There is a report out this morning that you’ve exchanged several emails. And should Americans expect that if elected president, you would have that same type of relationship with these old friends that you’ve had for so long?

HRC: (cackling) I have many, many old friends. And I always think that it’s important when you get into politics to have friends you had before you were in politics, and to understand what ‘s on their minds. And he’s been a friend of mine for a long time. He sent me unsolicited emails, which I passed on in some instances, and I see that that’s just part of the give and take. When you’re in the public eye, and when you’re in an official position, I think you do have to work to make sure you’re not caught in a bubble, and you only hear from a certain small group of people. And I’m going to keep talking to my old friends, whoever they are.

HH: That’s preposterous, Jake Tapper. He was sending emails on Libya and on Georgia. He may have been being paid for. We don’t know that, yet. And we don’t know if he violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act, yet, but it’s preposterous for her that she would giggle.

JT: It is an attempt at deflection. I would like to point out that the person that answered, that asked that question was CNN’s Jeff Zeleny. And you’re right, I mean, and this is why a press gaggle, they can be great things, but they really, the press corps needs to be unified in these events. I remember one time asking President Obama to answer the question of the guy who came before me, and then I would get to mine. There needs, people need to stick together. The Blumenthal question is a legitimate question. What is this information he was sending to Hillary? Where did it come from? And how seriously did she take it when she was forwarding it around? At one point, one of the emails that the New York Times wrote about today and ProPublica and Gawker wrote about it a few weeks ago, Hillary said something about, or Blumenthal said something about the Libyan opposition being armed and trained by contractors.

HH: Right.

JT: And she said something along the lines that this should be looked into, or, then she sent it to Jake Sullivan, one of her top foreign policy aides. And you know, why? And what was motivating Sidney Blumenthal to send that email? Those are all totally legitimate questions. Obviously, she tried…

HH: And here’s the most important question. Mike Morell was here on Friday, and this is what he had to say to me.

HH: What did you make of the Secretary of State having a private server in her house?

MM: So I don’t think that was a very good judgment. I don’t know who gave her that advice, but it was not good advice, and you know, she’s paying a price for it now. Yeah, it was not good.

HH: As a professional matter, do you believe that at least one or perhaps many foreign intelligence services have everything that went to and from that server?

MM: So I think that foreign intelligence services, the good ones, the good ones, have everything on any unclassified network that the government uses, whether it’s a private server or a public one. They’re that good.

HH: So that’s a yes?

MM: Yup.

HH: So Jake Tapper, did she act with reckless disregard for the national security?

JT: I mean, there’s so much I still don’t know about how this email server was maintained, that it would be irresponsible of me to say that without knowing more about the security put on her server. But certainly, when you have a former deputy director of the CIA saying that, and by the way, Hugh, I had heard it before. I do follow your reporting, that, you know, there’s certainly legitimate questions to be asked. And I think next time Hillary Clinton holds a gaggle, reporters need to follow up on each other’s questions.

HH: I agree, because that’s the question, is did you know what you were doing. Jake Tapper, we’ll watch the Letterman special tonight. Look forward to talking to you again soon.

End of interview.


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