The Lead with Jake Tapper Turns 10

By Mark Mwachiro 

When Jake Tapper was introduced to CNN audiences back in 2013 via his new show The Lead, former network head Jeff Zucker described him as the “face of the new CNN.”

Those words still ring true as Tapper, 10 years later, continues to be front and center whenever CNN covers a major news event.

Tapper spoke to Esquire’s Jack Holmes on The Lead’s 10-year anniversary, where he strongly defended how CNN operates and what the role of a news organization should be.


Tapper on his show prep: “It’s an evolving process because I remember when I was at ABC, the 6:30 newscast is going to be locked unless there’s some really big story. At CNN, it’s a different metabolism. You’re constantly evolving and changing what’s in the show because people are coming to you for breaking news.”

Tapper on whether British journalists are better at pressing their subjects harder than American journalists: “I certainly see those clips where British interviewers can be quite insistent, but I see that with American interviewers, too. It’s just the ones that we see from British interviewers tend to highlight that. I watch enough BBC to know that that’s really the exception, not the rule.”

Tapper on opinion journalism across the cable landscape: “I would exempt CNN from this, but I do think that there has been on cable, not including CNN, a rush toward opinion journalism and those other networks making a business decision to try to win people based on political beliefs instead of just doing straight news broadcasts.”

Tapper on news networks appealing to all points of the political spectrum. “Certainly not all points of the political spectrum because that would include a whole bunch of people that believe things that are not true or hateful. But I think the point of news is just to provide information, regardless of who it is good for or bad for.”

Tapper on the importance of objectivity on his show: “We all carry with us the biases of our lives and our experiences. But that said, my show is not about my views. My show is about the news. I have a staff that is diverse in all sorts of ways. They’re all super smart and talented, but they come from different walks of life, and they all have different things that they’re looking at and stories that they think are important. And I think it’s important to reflect all of that.”

Tapper on whether CNN’s different owners have impacted how it covers the news: “Never. When I started, we were owned by Time Warner. Then we were owned by AT&T. Now we’re owned by Warner Bros. Discovery, and it hasn’t affected anything.”

Tapper on how the media has changed covering politicians since 2016: “I’m probably more willing to say, ‘That’s not true,’ not, ‘That was a lie.’ Lying is a word that implies knowledge that the person is saying something not true.”

Tapper on the next 10 years of The Lead: “So I don’t know where we’re going to be in 10 years. I’m hopeful that there will continue to be a need for news where you don’t necessarily know how the person anchoring the show is going to vote.”