What (Really) Happened, Day #19
In November 2007, the Democratic candidates for president lined up on stage in Nevada for a long-awaited primary debate.
A college student in the audience named Maria Luisa Parra-Sandoval stood up to finish out the night. But the question she asked — “Do you prefer diamonds or pearls?” — was immediately ridiculed as trivial and sexist, especially directed at the presumed frontrunner.
It didn’t take long for Ms. Parra-Sandoval — an honors student and finalist for the prestigious Truman Scholarship — to make clear what happened: CNN forced her to ask it. In reality, Ms. Parra-Sandoval had submitted several questions to the network about children’s health care, the conflict in Iraq, and more. All of them were rejected.
She was ultimately coached to remember two questions: One about Yucca Mountain (a topic on which she had written a policy memo one year earlier) and another about whether Hillary Clinton preferred diamonds or pearls.
“She was very excited about going to the debate and getting to ask a question,” said a political science professor who taught one of Ms. Parra-Sandoval’s classes at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “Now it’s kind of turned into a nightmare for her. She’ll always be known as the girl who asked the dumb question.”
Criticism of the network was universal. Even ThinkProgress — the liberal news outlet operated by John Podesta’s Center for American Progress Action Fund — called CNN’s decision to protect Clinton a “lowlight” that “undermines its claim as the ‘most trusted name in news.’”
Hillary Clinton wasn’t at fault for the way these events played out, but her repeated refusal to tell voters where she stood on important issues made it easier for her opponents to paint this as the media propping her up.