Anderson Cooper and the Reagan Library - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Anderson Cooper and the Reagan Library

OK. Here I go getting into trouble. 

Let’s be fair here, conservatives. As the Democratic debate gets ready to roll in Las Vegas, sponsored by CNN and hosted by Anderson Cooper, Anderson is suddenly in the headlines at the Drudge Report and elsewhere because he was listed as a “member” of the Clinton Global Initiative. The Drudge story here was headlined


The inevitable link took readers here to the Weekly Standard where the headline was:

CNN Debate Moderator Was Member of Clinton Global Initiative

The Standard story read in part:

CNN host Anderson Cooper, who is set to moderate tonight’s Democratic debate, was listed as a “notable past member” the Clinton Global Initiative’s website along with a number of other big name journalists:

The list includes: CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Christiane Amanpour, Fox’s Greta Van Susteren, NBC’s Matt Lauer and Tom Brokaw, New York Times’s Thomas Friedman and Nicholas Kristof, Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo, Yahoo’s Katie Couric, The Economist’s Matthew Bishop, and Financial Times’ Lionel Barber.

The Clinton Foundation later told Mediaite that none of these journalists were asked to pay the $20,000 membership fee required of members. 

However, it’s safe to say that access to big name journalists was a key selling point for paying Clinton Global Initiative members. In a nutshell, Anderson Cooper helped Hillary Clinton raise money, and now he’s presented as an impartial moderator for tonight’s debate.

Before I begin, the obvious full disclosure. I am a CNN political commentator and a frequent guest on Anderson Cooper’s show, sometimes in person, sometimes via satellite from the center of the universe otherwise known as Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. So for what that’s worth — there it is.

I am also, however, as always identified in this space, a former Reagan White House political director. And as such, I know this. Take a look here at a fan site for Anderson called All Things Anderson Cooper. And when you follow this link you will find a long story from 2010 headlined:

Anderson at the Reagan Library

There you will find a photo of Anderson Cooper, arm-in-arm with Nancy Reagan as he escorted her into an official Reagan Library event starring — Anderson Cooper. The site wrote up the story this way:

Hi all! Friday night at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Anderson spoke to a sold-out crowd estimated at 950 people. The evening began with Anderson escorting Nancy Reagan into the auditorium to a standing ovation. After a glowing introduction from the Executive Director of the Library, Anderson received another ovation as he stepped to the podium.

He first joked about the last time he had been there, when he hosted one of the presidential debates there in 2008. He told the story of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger “complimenting” his biceps, and also that he and Mrs. Reagan happened to be wearing exactly the same outfits as they had that night.

The story goes about the details of Anderson’s talk, tales from assignments in Haiti and Iran and elsewhere. Then the story ends with this:

He spoke for 48 minutes, and was very engaging and both serious and funny. Afterwards, according to staff members, he went to an invitation-only dinner hosted by Mrs. Reagan for about 100 supporters of the Library.

Say again, following his speech Anderson Cooper “went to an invitation-only dinner hosted by Mrs. Reagan for about 100 supporters of the Library.”

Notice anything? Yes, that’s right, there is that closing to the Weekly Standard piece that says:

However, it’s safe to say that access to big name journalists was a key selling point for paying Clinton Global Initiative members. In a nutshell, Anderson Cooper helped Hillary Clinton raise money, and now he’s presented as an impartial moderator for tonight’s debate.

In other words? In other words if Anderson Cooper helped Hillary Clinton raise money by appearing at the Clinton Global Initiative, he equally clearly did exactly the same thing for Nancy Reagan. If he was a “selling point” for Clinton Foundation Donors, he was also a “selling point” for Reagan Library donors.

Ah, you say. But Nancy Reagan wasn’t running for president. True enough. But most assuredly in an era when there is all this uproar in the world conservative between Reagan conservatives like myself and the Establishment GOP (see GOP nomination race, Jeb Bush, John Boehner, etc., etc.) it is worth noting that Anderson regularly interviews Establishment GOP types and does it without a lick of comment that he has been used as a “selling point” for the Reagan Library and the Reagan conservative legacy it promotes.

In other words? Respectfully I would say that this “debategate” kerfuffle is one big no big deal. One may cast a raised eyebrow at the idea that prominent journalists (and Anderson Cooper is far from alone in this) lend their name by appearing at presidential libraries of presidents from both parties with money raised for the ex-president’s favorite cause as a result. One suspects this is a very frequent occurrence. But I’ll leave that to network chiefs and journalistic ethics arbiters, of which I am neither.

What I can say, based on my own experience with Anderson Cooper, is that the implication in this story that Anderson Cooper is “in the tank” or lacks professional integrity is — yes — wrong. Just the other night I was on Anderson’s show with two other ex-Reagan staffers — David Gergen and Bill Kristol, the latter now the founder of the Weekly Standard. The discussion was eminently fair. 

Anderson Cooper will doubtless moderate this Democratic debate in his usual cool, professional, and always gentlemanly style. And like moderators and hosts for every other debate (can you say “Megyn Kelly”? Or “Fox News”?), Anderson and CNN will get it in the neck from all sides.

Which, if I may say it, is called democracy and free speech at work.

Jeffrey Lord
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Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
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