Soledad O’Brien v. Mitt Romney: Gotta be tougher than that

CNN’s Soledad O’Brien had a gift fall in her lap this morning. She was interviewing Mitt Romney on camera, and the now-prohibitive front-runner made news of the highest order. The words from Romney:

“By the way, I’m in this race because I care about Americans. I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs a repair, I’ll fix it. I’m not concerned about the very rich — they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of America, the 90-95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling. I’ll continue to take that message across the nation.”

To her credit, O’Brien stopped Romney, even though she was in a rush. She said: “You just said I’m not concerned about the very poor because they have a safety net. And I think there are lots of very poor Americans who are struggling who would say, ‘That sounds odd.’ ”

Romney parried well. “Finish the sentence, Soledad,” said the candidate in perhaps the most Anglo pronunciation of “Soledad” ever heard on CNN. “I said I’m not concerned about the very poor that have a safety net, but if it has holes in it, I will repair them.”

With that, the CNN host appeared appeased, instead of perturbed. A moment like this is precisely when we expect O’Brien to flip her bulldog switch, bashing her interviewee with tough question after tough question. Here are just a few examples that I expected to hear from O’Brien:

“OK — you say that if there are holes, you’ll fix them. But are there holes in the safety net?”

“Would you say a homeless person is struggling less than a middle-income person?”

“You and your party have complained that President Obama is practicing class warfare in this country. How is this any different?”

Instead of putting such questions to Romney — or just interrupting him and saying, “Really? Really?” — O’Brien allowed Romney to drone on with his talking points for almost another minute.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.

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