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"Lanny Davis on CNN primary night: 'Worst experience I ever had on television'"

Written By mista sense on Sunday, May 11, 2008 | 8:29 PM







You know, maybe The Cable Gamer should get in the habit of only running verbatims in the headline. Because that's what the above header is, a verbatim--courtesy of Michael Calderone, one of the many hot writers for that hot publication, The Politico.

Here's the text, which sure makes CNN's Anderson Cooper and all of MSNBC look like putzes. Here's the best stuff:

Regarding CNN’s competitors, Davis said that MSNBC is “shameless about their bias toward Obama,” and Fox has been the fairest — which is saying a lot coming from a self-described member of the Democratic Party’s left wing.

“Fox, no matter how much you might criticize an ideological bent, in this campaign, they have been religiously middle-of-the-road, point-counterpoint,” Davis said.

And that’s what Davis said he expects from CNN, the network where he’s had “the longest history, best friends, and most respect.”


And here's the whole thing, verbatim:

When Clinton supporter Lanny Davis appeared on CNN during primary night, shortly before 10 p.m., there was a peculiar exchange with host Anderson Cooper.

Cooper: Lanny, let me start off with you. We haven't heard from you tonight. Your take on Barack Obama's speech earlier?
Davis: You haven't heard from me tonight. And I'm not sure — I’m not sure you want to hear from me tonight but —
Cooper: We heard from Paul Begala. This is your big chance.
Davis: Well, actually, I don't think we heard very much from Paul Begala. We did hear an awful —
Cooper: All part of the conspiracy against Hillary Clinton, I suppose.

During the Election Night broadcast, there was palpable tension between Davis and CNN reporters and panelists on camera — and apparently, with producers off camera.

Looking back, Davis said by phone this afternoon, he considers it “the worst experience I ever had on television.”

What bothers Davis most is that CNN is the network with which he’s had the longest relationship, where he’s maintained close friendships through the years, and that he's always considered middle-of-the-road in its coverage. But in his opinion, CNN has not treated Hillary Clinton fairly in the ’08 race.

Formerly special counsel to President Bill Clinton, Davis admits wholeheartedly to being a partisan and strongly supports Clinton against Obama.

So what happened on Tuesday night?

Davis, by his account, was invited to appear on the CNN panel in New York but declined because of a family commitment — his son’s baseball practice in Maryland. Instead, he opted to participate by remote from the network’s D.C. studio.

He was instructed to arrive around 8:30 p.m., he said, in order to take over the pro-Clinton position once Paul Begala left. So Davis left the baseball practice early in order to arrive at the studio on time, but he didn’t make it on air until almost 10 p.m.

A CNN spokesperson said that Davis was scheduled to go on-air at 9pm, but CNN didn't go to him or any commentator during Sen. Obama's speech in the 9pm hour, just as no commentators were on-air during Sen. Clinton's speech later the same night.

Davis said he told a producer several times before getting on-air that he wanted to offer a counterpoint to CNN’s panel, which he thinks is too pro-Obama.

Regarding the panel's make-up, Davis said that he believes Gloria Borger, David Gergen, Donna Brazile and Carl Bernstein are all tougher on Clinton than on her rival. And he maintains that Roland Martin is definitely a “partisan for Obama.” (Martin has not official endorsed Obama and is not labeled as such on the network,)

“I have seen the stacked deck on the so-called panels, which always struck me as imbalanced against Hillary on Election Night,” Davis said, adding that a producer assured him there would be “equal time.”

So after waiting for nearly 90 minutes, Davis finally got on the air only to hear Cooper’s “sarcastic crack about anti-Clinton conspiracy.”

“I literally had to take a breath,” Davis said.

A Cooper spokesperson at CNN, when contacted by e-mail about the exchange, wrote, “I believe Davis mentioned his problem with our coverage on the air that night.”

Indeed, Davis offered his critique right from the start.

“First of all, the rules say that the majority of delegates will carry the nomination,” Davis said on the air. “And although John King constantly refers to the number of delegates elected out of the states, the rules don't say pledged delegates or unpledged delegates. They say delegates.”

Later, Davis called King a "friend” and a “good journalist. However, Davis said, “I do think he has assumptions in his reporting that I simply disagree with, respectfully.”

Also, Brazile, who had already sparred earlier with Begala, said to Davis: “Now, if you want to keep fighting, let's fight. But let's you and I go in the green room and fight, and not keep this fight up.”

“I'm not fighting with you, Donna,” he responded.

While Davis now maintains that the pro-Clinton position wasn’t given ample time, he did acknowledge on air that he’d gotten to make his point. “Thank you for letting me speak for so long, Anderson,” he said at one point.

But off camera, Davis considered leaving altogether, but decided not to storm out of the studio. So he remained in the Washington for a couple hours, and had been told he'd get the opportunity back on the air after Clinton’s speech. But Cooper never came back to him.

“That’s when I went ballistic,” Davis said.

Since Tuesday, Davis has spoken to CNN political director Sam Feist and has decided not to appear on the network during election coverage.

"Our coverage on May 6 was abundantly fair to all sides,” said a CNN spokesperson.

“The facts speak for themselves — numerous Clinton supporters appeared on CNN during Tuesday's primary coverage including Lanny Davis, Paul Begala and Clinton campaign spokesperson Kiki McLean," the spokesperson continued.

And despite Davis’s protest of election night coverage, he’s actually appearing tonight on “Larry King Live.” Davis said that King is always fair, and he will never stop going on his show.

Regarding CNN’s competitors, Davis said that MSNBC is “shameless about their bias toward Obama,” and Fox has been the fairest — which is saying a lot coming from a self-described member of the Democratic Party’s left wing.

“Fox, no matter how much you might criticize an ideological bent, in this campaign, they have been religiously middle-of-the-road, point-counterpoint,” Davis said.

And that’s what Davis said he expects from CNN, the network where he’s had “the longest history, best friends, and most respect.”

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