This is what happens when two entities working together fail to communicate before the press release goes out.
Egos get bruised.
Reporters’ cell phones and emails blow up.
Headlines change. (Well, some of ’em.)
Early Tuesday morning, Salem Media Group, a conservative, Christian media corporation that syndicates Hugh Hewitt‘s radio program, shot out a statement to reporters announcing that he was going to moderate the first of three presidential debates fittingly at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. Salem’s release explained up top that they were partnering with CNN. In the meantime, the RNC also sent out a slew of emails with Salem’s news.
No, Salem didn’t specifically use the word “moderator.” But they certainly didn’t mention anyone else at the debate who would fall into the roll of asking candidates questions. They wrote Hewitt “will join in the Q & A of this debate.” They used the word “first” when describing which debate Hewitt, who is popular among Washington journalists from the right and the left, would moderate come September. They wrote that once the debates concluded, Hewitt would ask “candid questions” to any candidate wishing to participate in a post-debate show. Hewitt, they wrote, would broadcast “special editions” of his show pre-and post-debate.
Except then CNN began calling, telling reporters they got the news wrong. Especially, their headlines. What’s more, they said Hewitt wouldn’t pose questions at the first debate, but never made clear which one would include his questioning prowess.
“Frantic. Felt bad for her being in charge of fixing Jake Tapper’s ego,” said a reporter who fielded one of the many damage control calls that went out Tuesday morning. “Everyone was all excited about the news then CNN comes like ‘NO HES NOT! WE ARE!'”
Just as a matter of chronology, The Daily Caller reported the “news” first at 7:28 a.m. More than one hour later at 8:43 a.m., Politico chimed in, announcing that Hugh Hewitt would “pose questions” at the GOP presidential debate.
Why reduce Hugh Hewitt like that?
Oh, because CNN’s Jake Tapper is going to actually “moderate” the debate?
Rumors flew, with Tapper’s name front and center. But publicists wouldn’t deny or confirm. “Still TBD,” a CNN publicist told The Mirror, explaining that the network didn’t yet know who from CNN would moderate each of the three GOP presidential debates.
Soon enough, Hewitt, 59, took the mature route.
He announced on Twitter that he was not actually a debate “moderator.” He put the word in quotes. And just like that, he took a pin and popped his own balloon. He wrote: “Thanks to everyone who is sending me congrats on being a participant in GOP debate but to be clear? It isn’t 1st and I’m not the ‘moderator.”
Hewitt did not return an email request for comment on the whole debacle.
Politico‘s media writer Dylan Byers took to Twitter Tuesday to declare that “co-moderator” was the wrong term to use for Hewitt.
The Washington Times got around to the story Wednesday morning. (Hey, why not wait for the clusterf&%k to boil over?)
In TWT’s story, the writer, Jennifer Harper, said Hewitt had “emerged as a the point man.”
And holy sh-t! She dared to use the word “moderator” in her piece?
“He’ll serve as an official co-moderator come September, when the Republicans hopefuls gather to squabble and posture before a pivotal audience at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California,” she wrote. “CNN provides the cable broadcast, to be steered by Jake Tapper.”
Shut. Up. Has Tapper been confirmed as the journalist who will “steer” the debate?
Or will he serve in the coveted, more formal role of “MODERATOR?”
Who knows? “CNN moderator has not been determined at this point,” said a network source.
To all the scribes trying to get to the bottom of this mess: don’t feel bad.
Not even Hewitt knows who’s moderating the debate.