CNN’s “Crossfire” will broadcast live from the Jack Morton Auditorium in the Media and Public Affairs building Sept. 17-21, but the format of the traditionally biting political debate show will be transformed into a town-hall meeting to discuss Tuesday’s tragic events.
“Crossfire” Executive Producer Chris Guarino said the shows will begin at 7 p.m. instead of 7:30 and run 45 minutes to an hour rather than the usual half-hour to allow more student question and answer with guests. No guests had been confirmed as of Sunday night, but he said CNN hopes to host up to four terrorism experts for each show.
GW has hosted the show three times in the past seven years.
Guests have discussed issues such as Social Security, health care, education, defense and foreign policy in Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre and Lisner Auditorium. Bill Press and Tucker Carlson currently host the show.
GW spokesman Eric Solomon said in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks “Crossfire” producers felt the usual debates between Republicans and Democrats would be inappropriate. He said CNN producers believe a forum in which students can discuss issues with prominent and knowledgeable guests would be more beneficial to the community and the national audience.
“I think this is a wise decision,” said Mike Freedman, vice president for communications. “This is not a good time for disunity.”
Freedman said each day will have a different focus, and “it will give students the opportunity to come together and talk about what is happening in the world.”
“Crossfire” typically hosts top-name guests. Freedman said Press and Carlson originally planned to talk with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). He said he is unsure if plans have changed in light of the recent events.
This will be the first live network production from the MPA Building.
Last October, hot election debates ignited Lisner Auditorium with hosts Mary Matalin and Robert Novak. Guests included Reps. John Kasich (R-Ohio), Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) and Joe Scarborough (R-Fla) and other top officials discussing the critical issues of the 2000 presidential race.
“Crossfire” came to GW for the first time in September 1994 to Betts Theatre with hosts Pat Buchanan and Michael Kinsley. Health care and Haiti were among the topics debated between Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla), Rep. Robert Matsui (D-Calif.) and former Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour.
Current New Hampshire GOP Rep. John Sununu co-hosted two of the shows with Kinsley focusing on a potential American invasion of Haiti. Guests included McCain, Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.) and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.). They discussed putting American lives on the line to help restore democracy to Haiti two years after it was taken over by a dictatorship. Debate centered upon whether the U.S. should invade a country to correct human rights abuses going on near America’s shores.
In 1996, “Crossfire” celebrated its 15th anniversary during the week of June 16, broadcasting in Betts Theatre again. The first show hosted by Press and Buchanan discussed the Watergate scandal on its 20th anniversary. Guests included former White House counsel John Dean and Richard Nixon’s White House counsel Leonard Garment. They debated whether President Richard Nixon had prior knowledge of the Watergate break-in or was pulled into the criminal activities.
Other guests during the week included former White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry, Rev. Jerry Falwell, former Rep. Newt Gingrich press secretary and current Fox News contributor Tony Blankley. Issues varied during the broadcast, including the Republican tax bill, affirmative action, a Southern Baptist boycott of Disney and school prayer.