CNN anchor Jake Tapper is facing criticism for “lying” after denying that he urged Republican candidate Sean Parnell not to run against incumbent Democrat Rep. Conor Lamb for a western Pennsylvania House seat.
Tapper suggested that Parnell, a U.S. Army combat veteran who recently spoke at the Republican National Convention, would be better off running in a safer district for Republicans, according to a source close to, but unaffiliated with, Parnell’s campaign. The source accused Tapper of unethically participating in political activism.
Fox News obtained a Twitter direct message that Tapper sent to Parnell’s @SeanParnellUSA account on Nov. 8, 2019, after he officially declared his candidacy for Pennsylvania’s 17th congressional district against Lamb.
“And best of luck in your race. For the record, I wasn’t trying to talk you out of running — I was trying to talk you into running in a safer R district! Lol,” Tapper wrote to Parnell.
However, Tapper previously denied Breitbart’s reporting from earlier this week that alluded to his attempt to discourage Parnell from running against Lamb during a private exchange with former acting DNI Ric Grenell.
“Is it true you asked Sean Parnell to not run against Conor Lamb?” Grenell asked.
“Nope,” Tapper responded.
“They are saying they have texts from you. Not true?” Grenell followed.
On Thursday, Grenell published Tapper’s apparently misleading response via Twitter direct message.
Grenell, who recently became a senior adviser for the Republican National Committee, condemned Tapper while also highlighting the prominent anchor’s previous work in Democratic politics.
“The @CNN bias is serious. We all know this,” Grenell tweeted. “But when @jaketapper, a former Democrat Hill staffer from Pennsylvania, tries to manipulate a Pennsylvania Congressional race while hosting a nightly news show, the cable network MUST take action.”
Other critics slammed Tapper, alleging dishonesty.
“.@jaketapper told @RichardGrenell there was no truth to story that he tried to convince Sean Parnell to run in a different district than Conor Lamb’s. Here’s the DM to Parnell where Tapper admits exactly that,” Washington Free Beacon executive editor Brent Scher tweeted.
“Honestly don’t think that Tapper advising Parnell that he might be better off running in a different district (probably true!) is a big deal. But the flat-out denial contradicted by this DM is a real issue,” writer AG Hamilton said.
“It appears CNN’s Jake Tapper lied when he was asked if he urged Republican Sean Parnell not to run against Democrat Rep. Conor Lamb,” the Federalist senior editor Mollie Hemingway reacted to the latest reporting.
“The only way Tapper can try to claim this is not a bald-faced lie is by playing semantics. He did not “ask” Parnell not to run against Lamb, while he was trying to “talk him out” of running in Lamb’s district. Would Tapper buy this line from a Republican on his show?” NewsBusters executive editor Tim Graham pondered.
CNN did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
The direct message obtained by Fox News backs up Breitbart’s story, which cited “sources familiar with the interactions” and reported that Tapper “communicated his views on how Parnell should not run against Lamb in a variety of communication forms, including in text messages, Twitter direct messages, and in a phone call.”
Tapper did not immediately respond to a series of questions, including whether or not he would be able to fairly report on the Parnell-Lamb race.
Neither CNN or Tapper responded when asked about the denial.
The Parnell campaign declined comment when reached by Fox News.
It is unclear if CNN will allow Tapper to report on the race for Pennsylvania’s 17th district going forward.
“He boxed himself into a corner,” the source said. “He wanted him to primary a Republican instead of running against Lamb. He was looking out for his Democrat friend.”
Tapper, who bills himself as a nonpartisan anchor, anchors CNN’s weekday newscast “The Lead With Jake Tapper” and Sunday morning’s “State of the Union” political program.