Biden, the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee, participated in a drive-in town hall on Thursday night.
Throughout the entire event, Cooper seemingly failed to challenge Biden, which critics interpreted as an attempt to help the Democrat perform well before a national audience.
Cooper kicked off the event by implicitly criticizing President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and set up Biden with what seemed like a softball question.
“President Trump has said that he downplayed the coronavirus because he didn’t want to cause panic. If you were president, could you see a scenario where you downplayed critical information so as not to cause panic?” he asked.
“So far the questions at CNN’s drive-in #BidenTownHall sound as if they were written by Biden’s campaign: ‘Tell us how bad Trump is,'” journalist Miranda Devine tweeted.
“Biden is doing very well, yes. But this is not exactly getting him ready to face tough questions from a Chris Wallace or Jake Tapper,” political analyst Jeff Greenfield opined.
Ari Fleischer tweeted that “too many reporters think their role is to help” the Democratic nominee win the presidency, instead of holding him accountable and treating him like a public servant.
Even Trump weighed in on CNN’s apparent refusal to hold Biden’s feet to the fire, telling supporters at a rally in Wisconsin, which was being held at the same time as CNN’s town hall, that he would never be treated that way by Cooper.
CNN was also criticized over the fact that its town hall included only 16 questions by audience members. Only three were from Republicans, 13 were asked by Democrats.
Vox reporter Matthew Yglesias noted that Cooper kept steering the conversation toward inconsequential topics, while the only real inquiries came from attendees.
Anderson Cooper asks Biden how he’s preparing for the upcoming debate with Trump.
Citizen questioner asks Biden what he would do to make voting easier in the future.
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) September 18, 2020
Politico, a liberal-leaning magazine, published a scathing critique of the event, noting that Trump was grilled during a recent appearance on ABC.
In contrast, Cooper was friendly to his guest, treating the Democrat like an old acquaintance, and allowing him to share heartwarming anecdotes and chit-chat with audience members, the magazine argued.
The apparent lack of contentious encounters with the press could conceivably backfire on Biden, who will have to face off against Trump in the presidential debates this fall.
Some Democratic insiders are reportedly concerned about Biden’s ability to handle a debate against Trump and fear that he won’t be able to stay on message and avoid gaffes.