Indeed, Tapper can be tart on the air even with his colleagues. On election night last year, after an ABC News analyst said twice that this may be the last election that we see two white men run against each other for president, Tapper interrupted from the Obama headquarters in Chicago: I have this breaking news flash: Barack Obama is African-American. If somebody could tell Matt, thatd be great.
If colleagues are not always amused by what they see as Tappers sharp elbows, they mostly share a sneaking admiration for his legendarily canny instincts for self-promotion. His barrages of tweets of his recent (and widely praised) book on a doomed U.S. military mission in Afghanistan ( The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor) have been the subject of media wisecracks for months.
But Tappers Twitter habits are small potatoes compared to the gambit that started his journalism career. Back in 1998, when Tapper was working in public relations and freelancing stories to the alternative weekly City Paper in Washington, he called the editors with a shocking bit of news. That young woman Monica Lewinsky, all over the news for her supposed affair with President Clinton? Tapper went on a date with her a few weeks ago. How about a story? Instantly they agreed.
The piece Tapper wrote was nothing less than a prose miracle. It turned a tepid dinner date resulting from a chance encounter in a bar a date, Tapper admitted, that he made in hopes of a no-frills hookup, though nothing of the kind happened into an epic confessional of Washington ambition and self-loathing. City Paper Editor David Carr, seeing a chance for his pipsqueak publication to compete on a national story, loved it. He gave it the papers whole cover.
The day before we were going to press, Jake was at the office looking at the layout, recalls Carr, now the media writer at the New York Times. I told him the story was just beautifully written and was going to make a huge splash. And he said, David, Im working at Handgun Control Inc. President Clinton has been very good to Handgun Control. And I cant be working there when this story breaks. The moment of extortionate silence that followed ended when Carr shook Tappers hand. Welcome to the staff of City Paper, the editor said. And, well played Mr. Tapper, well played.