Blitzer’s Debate Approach: “I Want Light, Not Heat”

By Gail Shister 

Gail Shister
TVNewser Columnist

No blitz, says Blitzer

Contrary to the Drudge Report item today, the Clinton campaign has not pressured CNN’s Wolf Blitzer to keep the focus off Hillary in Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate, according to Blitzer.

“Nobody has warned me from the Clinton campaign, or any campaign, about anything,” says Blitzer, moderator of the 8-10pmET Las Vegas event. “Nobody has threatened me. Maybe it’s somebody trying to be mischievous.”

Some Clinton supporters accused NBC’s Tim Russert of having unfairly targeted the New York senator in the Democrats’ last debate, Oct. 30 in Philadelphia.

“I think Russert was doing his job,” says Blitzer, who helmed Democratic and G.O.P. debates in New Hampshire in June. “He was trying to follow up and be Tim Russert. He asks tough questions. That’s what people want. I admire him.”

Blitzer also denies the notion that six “boys” ganged up on one “girl.”

Hillary Clinton is the frontrunner. No matter if it’s a boy or girl, there’s a tendency to gang up on that person. It’s a natural phenomenon.”

NBC alum Campbell Brown, who with John Roberts will question candidates, agrees. Off the air since July, the debate will be her CNN debut.

“If you have a substantial lead in the polls, you know they will challenge you more than they’ll challenge each other. Anybody who wants to be president should expect that,” she says.

In Blitzer’s view, Clinton “is a sophisticated, strong politician. If she can’t handle the heat during a Democratic contest, wait until the Republicans really start going after her, if she’s the nominee.”

CNN has been heavily promoting the debate as a heavyweight boxing match, complete with Blitzer’s bearded puss on a faux fight card. “The Democrats are taking off the gloves and it’s going to be a fight to the finish!” the network promises.

Business as usual, says Blitzer. “The way they’re promoting is the way they’re promoting. My role is to follow up and make sure the candidates answer the questions. We’re serious professional journalists and we have serious work to do.”

That said, if the temperature rises, “it will be up to the candidates. I’m not going to be able to control it.”

“I don’t think screaming and shouting is good TV. I want light, not heat. I think good, smart, informed discussion is good TV.”

Ladies and gentlemen, take your corners.