Jake Tapper Discusses Covid-19 Coverage and His New CNN Special: There Is So Much Going on That We Don’t Know

By A.J. Katz 

Roughly 65,000 Americans (that we know of) have died from the novel coronavirus in 2020, and our government’s response to the pandemic has been heavily scrutinized.

CNN anchor Jake Tapper has been among those critics. Tapper, along with a team of CNN producers, set out to produce a program—The Pandemic & The President, A CNN Special Report with Jake Tapper—airing Sunday at 10 p.m.—analyzing how some of the most powerful people in the world have responded to the coronavirus outbreak. Did the Chinese government lie to its own people—and the world? Did the World Health Organization do enough? How has the U.S. and federal government responded under President Trump’s leadership? How are governors rising (or failing) to meet the challenge of protecting their own people from the spread of Covid-19?

We caught up with Tapper on Friday, and he told us about Sunday’s special, how working from home affects his journalism and his past life as a ABC News White House correspondent inform his coverage of the daily coronavirus briefings in 2020.


TVNewser: Can you provide us with a bit more background on Sunday’s special, including whose idea it was and who you worked with on it?

Tapper: A number of us were talking about trying to take a comprehensive look at all of the news we’ve had to absorb in the last three-to-four months. Ultimately, Jeff Zucker asked me and Jim Murphy, who runs our documentary and specials group, to put together a detailed look at how we got to this point in the pandemic. Ken Shiffman and Michelle Rozsa lead the production team and we all went day by day through all the facts discovered by CNN and multiple national news organizations to detail how the Chinese government, WHO, governors and the Trump administration responded. We are likely just at the beginning of having to deal with the coronavirus crisis in one way or another, so seeing what worked and what didn’t can be used to inform us all going forward.

Tell us about working from home and what that adjustment has been like.

Really nothing to speak of, considering how many millions of people around the world are suffering in very real ways. CNN built a makeshift studio for me here at home and thankfully I’m blessed with amazing staffs for The Lead and State of the Union.

What have you learned and how have you changed as a journalist during the time at home?

Whether the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq or Gaza, New Orleans after Katrina, Oklahoma after the tornadoes, Boston or Paris after the terrorist attacks, visiting the sites of news stories has been such an valuable part of covering them for me. The pandemic makes that kind of on-the-scene journalism much more difficult and that’s frustrating. It’s a much more complicated thing to visit nursing homes or ERs, to follow the PPE or the money. There is so much going on that we don’t know.

You spent a lot of time in the White House briefing room, going back to your days at ABC. How does your experience as a White House correspondent inform your coverage of these daily briefings?

I thought it then and I think it now: Reporters should stand up for each other and follow up on each other’s questions.