Blitzer: No Campaign Has Pressured Me on Debate Questions

By Terence P. Jeffrey | July 7, 2008 | 8:32 PM EDT

( - CNN Anchor Wolf Blitzer told Cybercast News Service Wednesday that no presidential campaign of either party has tried to pressure him to influence his questioning in CNN-hosted presidential debates.

The issue arose on Tuesday when the Drudge Report reported - under the banner headline "Wolf Warned: No Ganging Up on Hillary in Vegas"- that "Wolf Blitzer has been warned not to focus Thursday's Dem debate on Hillary."

The report quoted an unnamed "top Clinton insider" who said: "This campaign is about issues, not on who we can bring down and destroy. ... Blitzer should not go down to the levels of character attack and pull 'a Russert.'"

On Tuesday afternoon's edition of CNN's "The Situation Room," where this writer was making a regular weekly appearance as a guest commentator, Blitzer refuted the report.

"Not true," Blitzer said, when asked about the Drudge piece by his CNN colleague Jack Cafferty. "No one has pressured me, no one has threatened me. No one is trying to intimidate me."

Blitzer added, "No one has even called me to try to pressure me or anything like that."

On Wednesday, Blitzer was asked by Cybercast News Service whether Mrs. Clinton's campaign had attempted to influence the questioning in the debate he will moderate Thursday night in Las Vegas, or whether any Republican campaign had attempted to influence his questioning in the GOP presidential debates he has moderated.

"Nobody from Senator Clinton's campaign put any pressure on me, or threatened me in any way," Blitzer said. "No other Democratic campaign has tried to pressure me about my questions. Likewise, no Republican campaign has ever tried to pressure me before a Republican debate."

Like Tim Russert, who in a Democratic debate on MSNBC on Oct. 30, directed a tough line of questioning at Clinton that cited her prior stated support for New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer's plan to provide driver's licenses to illegal aliens, Blitzer directed tough questions of his own at the Democratic frontrunner in a debate held in New Hampshire on June 3.

Early in that debate, for example, Blitzer challenged Clinton on her failure to read the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq that had been produced for Congress in the fall of 2002 specifically to give senators and representatives the intelligence community's best understanding of the situation in Iraq, before they had to decide whether or not to authorize the use of force in that country.

Having not read the NIE, Clinton nonetheless voted to authorize a war.

"Senator Clinton, do you regret voting to authorize the president to use force against Saddam Hussein in Iraq without actually reading the National Intelligence Estimate, the classified document laying out the best U.S. intelligence at that time?" Blitzer asked Clinton.

When she gave a 189-word answer that did not directly answer the question, Blitzer did not let her off the hook. He asked her again.

"So let me just be precise, that the question was, do you regret not reading the National Intelligence Estimate?" he said.

Blitzer still did not get a clear answer from Clinton. But after asking his question twice, he then went on to put the same tough question to former Sen. John Edwards, who also voted to authorize the war in Iraq without having first read the National Intelligence Estimate.

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