CNN was not completely transparent about the background of some of the people who questioned Bernie Sanders during his town hall on Monday night. Although the brief descriptions shown on screen were accurate to a degree, they didn’t all represent the whole story for some of the questioners. Some of the people who asked Sanders questions had a background working with the Democratic party or lobbyists. However, interestingly enough, some of the people who asked tough questions were actually Sanders supporters. One shared on social media that he really wanted Sanders to publicly address an important issue in the campaign. Read on to learn more.
Beth (@FaerieWhings on Twitter), the Mike Grapes Fan Account (@respecteconomy), and others delved into the background of the people who questioned Sanders. Many viewers commented that the Town Hall questions were incredibly tough, a contrast to how some other town halls were handled. However, his supporters also agreed that it’s good for Sanders to be asked the tougher questions and address these issues up front. But for some, the tone felt overly harsh at times.
Overall, it appears that Sanders was asked questions from people of varying backgrounds, some who supported him and some who likely don’t. Some viewers have said the biggest issue is when some of the captions were inaccurate, and they wish CNN was more transparent about the questioners’ backgrounds.
Here’s a look at some of the people who talked to Bernie Sanders during the town hall. CNN gave accurate descriptions for some, but not others. Some of the questioners also talked about the process of the event, which is interesting to read.
Sheila Ruth got to ask the very first question of the night. She didn’t find out until just a few minutes before they went live that she would get the first question, the Baltimore Sun shared. She said she was really nervous before she stood up, but then just focused on her question. She asked Sanders how he would defeat President Donald Trump or if he would help whoever is nominated if it’s not him.
Ruth said she selected two questions (the other was about climate change), and CNN chose which question she got to ask. She said the evening was “well orchestrated.” When it was time to ask a question, a floor manager would tap the person on the shoulder and point them toward where they should stand, which was marked. Then they were tapped again when it was time to return to their seat.
Shadi Nasab was simply listed as an “American University Student.” She asked the question about sexual assault allegations within Sanders’ campaign.
Her question needed to be asked, as the allegations brought up in Sanders’ 2016 campaign have been all over the news for weeks. But CNN didn’t disclose her full credentials. Shadi Nasab is also a public policy intern for DC Cassidy and Associates, a large lobbying firm, according to her LinkedIn. However, she’s only been there for two months. She’s also the co-founder of Blue Future, a group focused on building relationships with other youth progressive organizations and providing leadership training.
Tara Ebersole, a former biology professor, was one of the people who asked Sanders a question.
According to her LinkedIn, she’s been the chair of the Baltimore County Democratic Party for three years. She’s also an illustrator of a series of children’s books and a former professor at The Community College of Baltimore County. She was executive director of the Baltimore County STEM Alliance.
Ebersole had the second question of the night, the Baltimore Sun shared. She’s also the wife of state delegate Eric Ebersole, who was part of Hillary Clinton’s leadership council in Baltimore in 2016, Paste Magazine noted. She asked about Sanders’ health care plan.
Abena McAllister was listed in the town hall as a mother of two and an active Democrat.
She’s a member of the Charles County Democratic Central Committee, according to a bio about her on Charles County Democrats.
She has a bachelor’s from Nyack College, a private Christian college, and has made several missions trips to South America and Africa, as well as within the United States. She has a law degree from David A. Clarke School of Law and has advocated for disabled children. She’s married and has two dogs, according to the bio.
Her Facebook page showed that she was really happy to have the opportunity to be at the town hall and she even posed for a picture with Sanders.
She wrote on Facebook:
Most countries with developed economies offer public preschool as a standard benefit to all of their 3 and 4-year-olds, America does not. Instead, low-income parents here scramble for scarce public spots while middle-income parents scrounge to pay for increasingly costly private preschool. I know so many working class families right here in Maryland that can’t afford the cost of quality care. High quality universal pre-K for 3 and 4 yr olds could significantly reduce the financial burden facing many middle class families and help ensure that children are prepared for kindergarten. Last night, I was encouraged to hear Senator @berniesanders respond to my question with a resounding ‘absolutely’ and assure me and all listening that he would support efforts to offer high quality optional publicly funded universal pre-K for all American families.”
Yunjung Seo was listed as a George Washington University student during the town hall.
According to her LinkedIn, Seo’s a BBA candidate for finance and political science at George Washington University. She’s also listed as being an intern for Katz Watson Group. This group provides fundraising and consultation services to political candidates. Seo’s just a sophomore in college and she’s only been interning with Katz Watson for two months.
Michele Gregory asked the climate change question. She’s the communications chair of the Lower Shore Progressive Caucus on Maryland’s East Shore, the Baltimore Sun shared. But during the town hall she was listed only as a “Maryland voter.”
It turns out that Gregory is more of a Sanders supporter than people realized. An article in Del Marva Now in 2018 noted that Gregory was promoting a platform that was essentially Bernie Sanders’. Gregory said she had some problems with the Democratic Party members over that. “We have a very progressive agenda and there are folks who are not keen on that,” she said.
After the event, she proudly shared photos with Sanders and Nina Turner on her Facebook page. In fact, one of her profile photos is now the photo of her and Sanders. She wrote about Turner: “And I just have to say, Nina looked straight up like she’d walked off the set of The Matrix. Total badass inspiration.”
Chioma Iwuoha asked the reparations question. The CNN caption shared that she worked for a nonprofit.
She’s actually Director of Development for Capital Partners for Education and has been there for five months, according to her LinkedIn. The organization’s board of directors includes Booze Allen Hamilton executives and the Carlyle Group. In October, she wrote on Facebook that she loved her job because she gets to serve low-income youth and she gets to do work that she loves. “Everything I prayed for in a job is what I received,” she happily shared.
Prior to this, she was the Education Advisory Council Member for the Meyer Foundation and an advisory board member for the Legal Aid Justice Center. She’s also the co-founder of the Melanin Uprising Youth Activist Center.
Some reports say that Alexis M. Herman, who was Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, may have been her aunt (a girl by the same name as Chioma was with her when she was sworn in.) However, this hasn’t been verified as the same person.
In the past, she ran to be an at large committeewoman for the DC Democratic State Committee. She was also part of the Dump Trump group, as many Democrats are.
Her Facebook posts reveal a woman seeking to uplift others, who speaks to middle school girls about building self-esteem and about the possibilities they can have in life.
Jaqueline Smith was listed as a Circuit Court Clerk.
She won a tough contest against Republican Jackson Miller, who was favored to win because he had more cash on hand for the election, Fauqier Times reported. But Smith won 53 percent of the vote. She has an eight-year term. She said she won because of small-dollar donors and grassroots efforts. Her listing appears accurate on CNN.
Troy Donte Prestwood was listed as a community organizer in Washington, D.C.
More specifically, he’s the public relations executive and chair of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission 8A for the District of Columbia according to his LinkedIn.
He’s the founder and CEO of Prestwood PR, a public relations organization that works for some local and national organizations.
Donte is also a supporter of Cory Booker, who’s running for President too, according to his social media posts. It certainly wouldn’t disqualify Troy from asking the question, but knowing his background might have made the question even more interesting to watch. There was no need for CNN to include that information, however.
On his Twitter, Prestwood thanked Sanders for his response to his question.
Prestwood ran for the Democratic State Committee in June and was described as an “inspiring community leader.” He was part of the Dump Trump group.
Schanelle Saldanha asked the Venezuela question, which was important to ask because Sanders’ opinion on Venezuela has been a major focus lately. She was listed as an American University student.
It certainly doesn’t disqualify her from asking questions, but it’s interesting to note that she’s a fan of Loretta Lynch, according to her Facebook.
This is a detail that probably had no need to be included during the event, however. CNN was accurate in their description of Saldanha. She’s an American University student, studying broadcast journalism and political science.
Noel Isama got to ask one of the first questions, seeking to know how Sanders would address the deep sense of mistrust that some in the African-American community feel towards him. In his question, he noted that some felt he didn’t support Hillary Clinton enough and may have contributed to Trump’s election. Isama was listed as a public policy analyst and this appears accurate — he works in data analysis for the Sun Foundation, a non-profit advocating for an open government.
He tweeted later that he was happy to be able to participate. Isama said he was “feeling the Bern” and asked his question “as a chance for Bernie to directly answer concerns people have about him.”
Isama said that each participant got to submit three questions and then CNN picked which question they asked. He also submitted questions about how people view his supporters and about government transparency.
So in summary, it appears that some of the people who asked questions were represented accurately in CNN’s captions and descriptions, but others had a background that should have been included for greater transparency. Interestingly, at least some who asked the tougher questions were actually Sanders supporters.
Some people have reported trouble sharing tweets about this topic on Facebook, with the posts labeled by Facebook as abusive. A post about this on one of the Bernie Sanders subreddits was also locked, but other discussions are still active.
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