Jake Tapper Visits AU SOC

Even after arriving an hour and a half early, I was 56th in line to see Jake Tapper at the Dolby Theatre in the American University School of Communication. Students lined the halls on two floors of the building waiting to see CNN’s Chief Washington Correspondent and anchor of “The Lead.”

Tapper was asked a variety of questions by moderator and School of Communication professor, Jane Hall, in addition to students in the audience. It’s no surprise that Tapper was asked about fake news, the Trump Administration, Kellyanne Conway, Saturday Night Live, and more.

On fake news Tapper said, “politicians lie,” explaining that this is not a new phenomenon, however the prevalence of fake news and “alternative facts” is higher than he’s ever seen. So does the public push back on fake news? Tapper acknowledged that the nation is divided but it is important for the press to stand up for truth. He brought up the blur between real and fake news, and how easy it is to lose sight, as a society, of what is real and important.

One American University student asked Tapper if he thought the truth had become a partisan issue. Tapper responded by stating that it is not partisan to stand up for the truth and decency. The CNN anchor made it clear that working hard to hold politicians accountable for their words is paramount. So how does Tapper think we can fight against fake news? He told students that it is the media’s job to look for facts and be less defensive, even while under attack.

Tapper also discussed political debates in his talk.  Everyone who’s ever turned on CNN or another news network has seen the mega panels of political commentators, analysts, reporters, spokespeople and more, debate the issues, especially during elections.  It may seem outrageous to some, but Tapper said that he thinks passionate debate, with respect, is healthy. And everyone has seen them get pretty heated. He said he often lets commentators “go at it” as long as there is a basic level of respect for one another.

In today’s media landscape it is often hard to navigate through the news and determine what’s important. Tapper said that the front page seems to mean less everyday, but an indicator of importance is probably the amount of time spent covering a story or topic.

Now to address the elephant in the room (no pun intended). Kellyanne Conway and Jake Tapper have had several interesting interviews on his show. Saturday Night Live has made several sketches about the incidences and one Fatal Attraction-like short sparked attention. When Tapper was asked about his SNL portrayal he explained how flattered he was by Beck Bennett’s impression of him and how much younger he is saying he was “lucky.” In regards to that sketch, Tapper would only tell the audience that his wife found it sexist. He said that it’s not fair that Conway is the only member of the Trump administration who is sexualized. However, Tapper recognized the importance of satire that is done well and is “clever.”  

Tapper went on to answer questions covering criticism of the media in the 2016 election, international perception of the U.S., and his new book Outpost and his career over the years. His parting remarks: "the most important thing in journalism is writing well, and one must persevere through rejection." SOC students and professors in the theatre connected deeply with these words.


Photo Credit 1 belongs to the author, 2 belongs to American University Kennedy Polotical Union