Jake Tapper ’91 offers post-election analysis at Rockefeller Center event

by Daniel Modesto | 11/16/20 2:00am

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On Thursday evening, the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy hosted a post-election analysis event with CNN anchor and chief Washington correspondent Jake Tapper ’91. The event drew more than 500 viewers, a record live audience for a virtual Rockefeller Center event.

The event, which was moderated by public policy professor Charles Wheelan ’88, covered a range of issues, including President Donald Trump's refusal to accept the results of the election and the media’s effort to defend democracy amid what Tapper called “deranged conspiracies” on social media. Although Democratic President-elect Joe Biden won the election with a projected 306 electoral votes, Trump has baselessly claimed the election was fraudulent.

According to Tapper, both the Democratic and Republican parties face an uncertain future following the election. Tapper said that while Democrats face two “competing ideologies” — a progressive wing and a more moderate wing — Republicans face a division between those who “believe in the deranged conspiracy theories that Trump has put forward” and those who do not.

Tapper also discussed the evolution of fact-checking in the media, especially during Trump’s presidency. He said that Trump’s administration forced journalists to increase their emphasis on fact checking politicians.

“Never before in my career as a journalist have I confronted this much mendacity,” Tapper said in reference to the Trump administration. 

Members of the audience, which included Dartmouth students, faculty, Upper Valley residents and other community members, were able to submit questions for Tapper via the Q&A function on Zoom. In addition, audience members could “like” questions to help bring those questions to the top of the queue. Tapper fielded questions pertaining to the media’s role in helping the public make “informed decisions,” the importance of covering the candidates’ policies, as well as a viral moment with Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore’s spokesperson in 2017 in which Tapper refuted Moore’s claim that Muslims should not be able to serve in Congress.

Tapper ended the event on a hopeful note, arguing that while at times our political climate appears chaotic, those who wish to pursue a future in government should do so because it is “honorable.”

“I’ve spent my whole life criticizing the government, but I know that there are a lot of good people in it trying to do the right thing,” he said.

In an interview before the event, Wheelan said that Tapper, who is “deeply enmeshed in our political arena,” offers valuable insight during “a unique time in our politics.” He also said students may enjoy hearing about Tapper’s career trajectory, from a cartoonist for The Dartmouth to “one of the most influential voices in political journalism.”

“I think it's always interesting to look at the paths that alum[ni] took to get where they are, and to see all the interesting things they do,” he said.

Attendees generally found the event worthwhile. Nishi Jain ’21, who attended the event, said she enjoyed Tapper’s discussion of how media outlets reported on the election. She also appreciated the timing of the event, which began at 7 p.m., since it enabled her to share the event with her parents over dinner.

“Me and my parents watch CNN, and we see Jake Tapper all the time,” she said. “It’s a very cool thing to see him and to think that he walked the same halls that I did and he took the same classes that I did.”

Catherine Good ’21, another attendee, said that she appreciated Tapper’s comments on how the public “needs to demand from its journalists and public officials the truth,” as opposed to just “opinions of the truth” that the Trump administration has prioritized.

In an interview after the event, Tapper said he thought the event went “pretty well,” and that it was “great to engage with the Dartmouth community.” 

He also discussed his career and how rejection has been a constant force in his professional life. 

“You need to understand that rejection is a part of the deal,” he said, offering advice to graduating students. “But you can do it. My message to students is you can do it, I know you can. But you just have to develop that within yourself.”