Jake Tapper speaks to campus community about future of American democracy

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Jaxon White, Editor-in-Chief / The Bucknellian

Jaxon White, Editor-in-Chief

Conspiracy theories and social media played a major role in the outcome of the midterm elections, according to Jake Tapper, when he and University President John Bravman spoke as part of the Bucknell Forum Speaker Series.

Tapper, the lead Washington anchor at CNN, has served as a reporter in the nation’s capital for more than 20 years in a number of positions. He is the anchor of “The Lead with Jake Tapper,” which started in 2013, and has hosted CNN’s show, “State of the Union,” since 2014.

The results of the 2022 midterm elections surprised many Washington insiders, Tapper said, when asked about his recent coverage by Bravman. 

“They generally thought it was gonna be a better night for Republicans than it ended up being,” Tapper said. “The voters have been surprised and look, at the end of the day, that’s the great thing about America. It’s up to the voters.”

Conspiracy theories were overhanging this midterm election season, Tapper said, with many mainstream politicians rising through the ranks by perpetuating these theories. Doug Mastriano, a former candidate for Pennsylvania governor that lost the 2022 election, and Donald Trump were both mentioned by Tapper for pushing those theories to constituents. 

One false conspiracy that Trump popularized among his voter base was the distrusting of the 2020 election results, something that Tapper said is, “not based on facts.” Trump’s insistence of that conspiracy led directly to an insurrection in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021. 

Bravman asked Tapper about how he feels about the role of social media in sharing these conspiracy theories and the future of Twitter under the ownership of Elon Musk. 

“I don’t know what he’s doing with Twitter,” Tapper said. 

When Twitter censored the Washington Post for posting an article about Hunter Biden’s laptop, Tapper said he “wasn’t comfortable” and that he understands why many people consider it an overreach. 

He said another problem with social media, and media in general, is that many people live in an “echochamber” where they only consume content that pushes the same viewpoints that they already hold and don’t choose to hear other opinions. Polarization in the country grows stronger from this practice, he said. 

“The goal is not to have Democrats and Republicans agree, or liberals and conservatives agree. I think the goal is just to not have a demonization,” Tapper said. 

Arya Bedi ‘23, an international relations major who attended a discussion with Tapper and a group of students prior to the speaker series event, said she appreciated Tapper’s hope for the future of democracy. 

“I think it is really moving to have experienced a journalist who is truly a servant leader, and remains neutral and unbiased, especially living in a nation with such polarization and rigid party lines,” Bedi said. “To have a true, honest discussion with someone who reports for the greater good, and not for his own ego was incredibly inspiring and gives me hope for the future of America.” 

The Bucknell Forum brought Condoleezza Rice, the first female African American Secretary of State and the first woman to serve as National securityAadviser, in September. Three more events are planned for the speaker series this year. 

Guest speakers John Kasich, the former governor of Ohio, and David Axelrod, a former advisor to President Obama, are scheduled to speak together on Feb. 28, and Barbara Walter ‘86, a scholar of civil wars and an author, is expected to speak on April 4.

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