CNN will co-host presidential debate with PAC-affiliated "Tea Party" group

The 2012 GOP contenders will face questions from GOP political operatives on America's Most Trusted Name in News

Published December 17, 2010 7:30PM (EST)

Wolf Blitzer
Wolf Blitzer

CNN will co-host a Republican presidential debate next year with the Tea Party Express, which is basically a PAC run by Republican political operatives. It is a slightly puzzling decision from a "basic standards of journalistic ethics" standpoint, although from a "desperation for attention and the participation of a bunch of Fox employees" standpoint it actually makes perfect sense.

CNN political director Sam Feist is excited for this opportunity to attempt to justify having a Republican campaign operation sponsor a presidential debate on a supposedly objective news network:

Sam Feist, CNN Political Director and Vice President of Washington-based programming said, "The Tea Party movement is a fascinating, diverse, grassroots force that already has drastically changed the country's political landscape."

"Undecided voters turn to CNN to educate themselves during election cycles, so it is a natural fit for CNN to provide a platform for the diverse perspectives within the Republican Party, including those of the Tea Party," Feist added.

"Diverse" and "grass-roots" are not the first words that come to mind when I think of the Tea Party Express -- the first words that come to mind are actually "lol Joe Miller" -- but it will be fun for undecided voters to hear the perspective of the wing of the Republican Party that thinks Christine O'Donnell is a better candidate than Mike Castle.

I'm not sure what role the TPE will have in selecting or drafting the questions, but I'm guessing that there will be a lot of questionable assumptions, faulty premises and blatant misinformation baked into each one. "Governor Romney, will you cut the deficit by ending the death tax, repealing Obamacare, invading Iran, or some combination of the three?" "Senator Thune, do you think it's super-unconstitutional or just regular-unconstitutional for the nanny state government to allow public employee union thugs to force-feed my child arugula instead of wholesome American corn syrup?"

The debate will happen on Labor Day 2011, in Tampa, Fla., and it won't even be the first debate of the 2012 cycle, because they're also holding one in early June.

By Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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2012 Elections Cnn Media Criticism Republican Party Tea Parties War Room