CNN Planted a Question for Debate, Student Says

From a Times Staff Writer

CNN, which has marketed itself as an outlet for serious news, planted a question about computer preferences at last week’s debate of the Democratic presidential candidates, according to the student who posed the query and on Monday wrote about it in an online forum of Brown University’s Daily Herald.

During the debate, cosponsored by the nonprofit Rock the Vote organization, Alexandra Trustman asked the candidates whether they preferred the PC or Mac format for their computers.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. Nov. 12, 2003 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday November 12, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 1 inches; 52 words Type of Material: Correction
Political debate -- An article in Tuesday’s Section A about CNN planting a question at a Nov. 7 debate of Democratic presidential candidates said CNN did not respond to requests for comment. In fact, the network issued a statement apologizing for what it said was an “attempt to encourage a light-hearted moment.”

Trustman wrote Monday that she was called the morning of the debate and given the topic of the question the CNN producers wanted her to ask. She wrote that she was “confused by the question’s relevance,” and constructed what she thought was a “much more relevant” question.


But when she arrived in Boston for the debate, she wrote, she was “handed a note card” with the question and told she couldn’t ask her alternative “because it wasn’t lighthearted enough and they wanted to modulate the event with various types of questions.”

Trustman wrote that she went ahead and agreed to pose the question during the debate because “it was clear to me that the question would be asked regardless of whether I was the one to ask it.”

CNN did not respond to repeated requests for comment.