What does election meddling look like?
We know what the traditional type of meddling looks like — especially from Russia, a country routinely blamed by the left for any electoral result that isn’t viewed as entirely copacetic to them.
The Kremlin still looms large for Democrats, out of either genuine fear, electoral cupidity or both. Speaking to CNN in an interview that aired Sunday, Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris of California said “of course” Russia could still cost her and Joe Biden the election.
In reality, the word “meddling” gets thrown about quite bit but actually means a lot of things. In putting together a working definition, we could probably concur that a meddler is someone who’s using power to interfere in a race where they have no business interfering.
It could be a country, and it could be a singular entity. It doesn’t matter whether they’re breaking a code of ethics or the law, meddling is meddling.
All of which is a roundabout way to suggest CNN’s Jake Tapper is, if reports are to be believed, an election meddler.
On Sunday, Breitbart News reported that sources familiar with Tapper’s actions say the veteran CNN newsman tried to press Republican House candidate Sean Parnell, a former U.S. Army Ranger captain and a rising star within the party, to run in a safer GOP district to avoid challenging Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb.
Lamb won election to Pennsylvania’s 17th Congressional District in 2018 in a special election and then held onto it during the November midterms. It’s one of 30 districts won by President Donald Trump in 2016 that are currently represented by a Democrat.
Flip a net of 17 seats, Breitbart noted, and you no longer have a Democrat-led House of Representatives or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
While that’s a lot of heavy lifting, Lamb v. Parnell has been seen as one of the heavyweight matchups in this November’s House sweepstakes. Both candidates are veterans (Lamb was a Marine) and both hold relatively high profiles within the party for two men who have less than three years of federal elected office experience combined. Parnell spoke at the Republican National Convention in August while Lamb’s special-election victory in 2018 was considered a major coup for the Democrats.
It could also, more importantly, turn out voters in all-important Pennsylvania — a state where Tapper has roots, as anyone who has him on their Twitter feed will know all about, given his insufferable Philly sports boosterism.
On Sunday, Breitbart News reported that “sources familiar with the interactions told Breitbart News that Tapper communicated his views on how Parnell should not run against Lamb in a variety of communication forms, including in text messages, Twitter direct messages, and in a phone call.”
“Jake knows exactly what he is doing here,” one source said.
“This is a swing district in a swing state — Jake knows that Sean can bring out voters that might otherwise stay home but if they come out, they’re voting for Trump. Those votes could deliver the state and the election to Trump. This is nothing short of a CNN anchor interfering in a national election.”
It was enough that the National Republican Congressional Committee — the campaign arm of the House Republicans — called Tapper’s actions “meddling” and wondered “how many other districts has [Tapper] pulled this crap with?”
— NRCC (@NRCC) September 7, 2020
Whether you trust the report depends on how much you buy anonymous sources and how much weight you put in Tapper’s denial.
While there wasn’t a whole lot of meat behind the Breitbart story, the outlet seemed confident enough in its reporting. In addition, GOP insider Arthur Schwartz tweeted that Breitbart had eight sources for the story as of Monday:
GOP‘s House Campaign Arm: CNN‘s Jake Tapper ‘Meddling‘ in ‘Swing House Races‘ https://t.co/5OERHYrpFL
— Arthur Schwartz (@ArthurSchwartz) September 7, 2020
Former U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grennell, who’s campaigning with Parnell, says Tapper denied it to him:
I just asked @jaketapper “Is it true you asked Sean Parnell to not run against Conor Lamb?”
He told me “nope”.
So there is his answer. https://t.co/Nh8LdVKmrD
— Richard Grenell (@RichardGrenell) September 6, 2020
Breitbart stood behind its reporting, and The Federalist’s Sean Davis said he had confirmation of Tapper’s attempts to meddle, as well:
We stand by our reporting. https://t.co/mlQVAl3h8O
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) September 6, 2020
I can confirm, notwithstanding his denial, that Jake Tapper directly urged Parnell not to run against Rep. Conor Lamb, a vulnerable left-wing Democrat in a swing congressional district in Pennsylvania. https://t.co/CiJebG5B7t
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) September 7, 2020
A Republican operative also noted to Breitbart that Tapper’s profile — working as an aide to a Democratic Pennsylvania congresswoman and then with a gun control organization — seemed like a fit for someone who might encourage Parnell to move to a safer district.
“He is a former staffer for the Brady Campaign for Gun Control. Now he is a reporter at CNN who is supposedly unbiased, but he’s still a Democrat operative at heart,” the senior national Republican campaign staffer said.
“By attempting to bully a star Republican recruit out of his race, which would in effect help Democrat Conor Lamb and bolster Pelosi’s chances of keeping the House, Jake has officially given up on journalism in exchange for Democrat activism. If CNN actually cares about ethical journalism, Tapper will face consequences from them.”
Additionally, in a follow-up report, Breitbart News said “several sources familiar with Tapper’s activities on Sunday after the story broke confirm that Tapper spent much of the evening calling and texting people frantically trying to rally anyone he could to his side — and asking anyone he could for advice on what to do.”
“For someone who likes telling people that he doesn’t take Breitbart seriously, it was enjoyable to see him spend his entire evening taking Breitbart pretty seriously,” a Trump ally told the outlet.
CNN, Tapper and Parnell’s campaign didn’t respond to Breitbart’s requests for comment.
So, yes — anonymous sources, Tapper’s denial, take that as you will. It’d be ironic, however, if it turned out a network which has sounded so many alarms about unlawful international election meddling had an unethical domestic election meddler on its staff.
You know, the way former Democratic National Committee head and CNN contributor Donna Brazile was back in 2016 when she funneled debate questions to the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Something like that.
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