Accuracy in Media

The New York Times sat down with six Democratic Party presidential candidates and asked them 20 questions, the majority of which were serious, and one question was an admittedly silly question. The candidates who participated were former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), billionaire Tom Steyer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

To be fair, the majority of questions were fair questions, such as how to handle a general election debate against Trump, the legality of vaping products, and whether Saudi Arabia should be considered an American ally. Here is the list in full:

  1. How would you handle a general-election debate against Trump?
  2. Do you think the United States is a racist country?
  3. Do you think the next administration will need to investigate President Trump or members of his family?
  4. What attributes would you look for in a running mate?
  5. Who is one foreign leader you admire?
  6. What is the most important thing foreign leaders should know about you?
  7. Do you see Saudi Arabia as a U.S. ally?
  8. Does the United States have a role to play in Hong Kong?
  9. What is the most urgent economic challenge facing the United States today?
  10. By what year do you think the U.S. needs to cut its carbon emissions to zero?
  11. Should vaping products be legal?
  12. Would it be important to you to get Republican support for your agenda?
  13. How would you judge whether your presidency was a success or a failure?
  14. How would you make sure no one in your family tries to profit off your administration?
  15. What is the last book you read?
  16. Do you have a celebrity crush?
  17. Do you have a bad habit?
  18. What do you think your 18-year-old self would think of you now?
  19. What has been the most memorable moment of the campaign for you, so far?
  20. Do you think Barack Obama made any mistakes as president?

But one question stuck out from the rest: Do you have a celebrity crush? Bloomberg answered and said Laura Dern and William H. Macy, while Buttigieg said that it was “[n]ot for The New York Times to know about.” Klobuchar said the music artist Prince, Warren said hers was Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson,” Andrew Yang said his crush was his wife, and Tom Steyer said that singer Alicia Keys was his celebrity crush.

Although the Times noted that it was a silly question and was solely for fun, it was an odd question to include among a lineup of serious questions. It could possibly be one way to humanize the candidates more beyond their policy proposals and campaign rhetoric, but it could also be an example of a lack of awareness.

Warren told the Times that she thought it was a question that a man would ask, and by extension, implied that the question was sexist. For example, one blog asserted that the question was inappropriate because the question’s undertone was sexual in nature.

Either way, the other 19 questions were not problematic from a political or partisan standpoint. But its inclusion of the celebrity crush question undermined the serious tone of the interviews.

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