CNN Plays Vegas

The Don King-ification of a Democratic Presidential Debate

A plea to campaign reporters: please resist the temptation to use Sin City-centric clich├ęs in your coverage of Thursday’s Democratic debate in Las Vegas. No boxing references (which lend themselves to shallow jab/counter-jab coverage). No gambling allusions (which lend themselves to superficial winner/loser/horserace coverage). And, yes, What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas once had a certain appeal that other state tourism taglines (say, New Jersey and You: Perfect Together) lack. But it is no longer clever. It is cringe-inducing. Leave it out.

Besides, CNN—which is sponsoring and airing Thursday’s debate—has already beat you to it. All of it.

CNN, unsurprisingly, has been heavily promoting the debate. And it’s been doing it Don King-style (Wolf Blitzer’s face on a card ringed in white hot blinking lights—it’s a Donnybrook in the Desert!) all the while reminding viewers how “significant” and “serious” an event it is.

Seemingly every CNN anchor has done his or her part to hype the debate in recent days.

Bill Schneider:

You know they say what happens in Vegas stays Vegas. But in this case, that’s not true. What’s gonna happen in Las Vegas is going to have national, and world significance.

Tony Harris:

The Democratic candidates hit the Vegas strip. All bets are off as they clash again with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and the best political team on television. Watch this Thursday night…

Don Lemon:

What happens in Vegas gets broadcast on national TV on Thursday night. It’s the CNN Democratic presidential debate in Vegas. Wolf Blitzer, John Roberts and Campbell Brown will take a break from the craps table long enough to ask a few questions of the candidates during the first hour…

Fredricka Whitfield:

Well, all bets are off once Bill Schneider hits the Vegas strip for the Democratic debate. He’ll be joined by Wolf Blitzer and the best political team on television. And oh, yeah, the Democratic candidates will be there, too… Don’t miss it.

Wolf Blitzer:

Remember the debate is Thursday night in Las Vegas… We’ll be out there asking the Democratic presidential candidates some serious, important questions.

Serious, important questions from the best political team on television. Between visits to the craps tables. And oh yeah, there will be Democratic candidates there, too.

Maybe in this case what happens in Vegas - shouldn’t.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.