MARC AMBINDER, ATLANTIC – Maria Luisa, the UNLV student who asked Hillary Clinton whether she preferred “diamonds or pearls” at last night’s debate wrote on her MySpace page this morning that CNN forced her to ask the frilly question instead of a pre-approved query about the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.
“Every single question asked during the debate by the audience had to be approved by CNN,” Luisa writes. “I was asked to submit questions including “lighthearted/fun” questions. I submitted more than five questions on issues important to me. I did a policy memo on Yucca Mountain a year ago and was the finalist for the Truman Scholarship. For sure, I thought I would get to ask the Yucca question that was APPROVED by CNN days in advance.”
Now, Luisa is getting “swamped” with critical e-mails.
So what happened?
“CNN ran out of time and used me to “close” the debate with the pearls/diamonds question. Seconds later this girl comes up to me and says, “you gave our school a bad reputation.’ Well, I had to explain to her that every question from the audience was pre-planned and censored. That’s what the media does. See, the media chose what they wanted, not what the people or audience really wanted. That’s politics; that’s reality. So, if you want to read about real issues important to America–and the whole world, I suggest you pick up a copy of the Economist or the New York Times or some other independent source. If you want me to explain to you how the media works, I am more than happy to do so. But do not judge me or my integrity based on that question.”
Rivals to Clinton believe that the debate audience had a pro-Clinton tilt. UNLV was responsible for distributing most of the tickets.
TPM – Hillary’s rivals are accusing CNN of going soft on the frontrunner, and they’re pointing to this question, among other things, as proof of this.
Here’s how the whole thing unfolded, according to the spokesperson. Questioners were told in advance that they didn’t want duplicate questions to be asked on topics that were already covered. The spokesperson argues that Yucca Mountain had already been discussed for some time as the debate wound down last night.
According to the spokesperson, as the debate drew to a close, CNN wanted to ask one last question. A CNN employee (it’s unclear who) asked the girl if she wanted to ask the “diamonds and pearls” question. She said yes.
A CNN official is already on record telling Marc Ambinder that she chose the question. But as the above makes clear, CNN’s spokesperson is confirming that the network in fact chose it.
So this is both better and worse for the network. On the one hand, it’s better because the question was originally submitted by the girl, and it’s obvious that the girl was hardly “forced” to ask this; rather, she was offered the opportunity and took it. The network wanted to close on a light question, and they chose this one.
On the other hand, the network is confirming that it did in fact choose a question that quizzed the first credible female Presidential candidate on her taste in jewelry. That’s confessing to some pretty questionable taste.