He spent his formative years in our city.
He once dated Monica Lewinsky (once).
He hosts not one but two political shows on CNN.
He moderated the September GOP debate.
He has used the word “zaftig” and the term “raison d’etre” in the same article.
He’s won three Merriman Smith Memorial Awards for journalism, an Emmy, and was part of a team that was awarded the Edward R. Murrow Award for his work on a documentary on Osama bin Laden.
He wrote a book that debuted on the NY Times bestseller list at #10.
He is married to Jennifer and has two kids he adores.
He is PhillyMan Jake Tapper. And I had the pleasure of asking him some questions regarding his fascinating life and career.
From Queen Village to Dartmouth to Washington, D.C., he is a well-traveled individual.
But success and excellence seem to be his constant companions.
Hope you enjoy our Q&A with a local product turned heavyweight political insider.
Q: What is your favorite memory of your time in Philadelphia?
A: There are too many to pinpoint a favorite, but some of the best involve walking around with my mom and little brother at Headhouse, riding bikes with my dad around Queen Village and Society Hill, running around Center City with my friends from The Philadelphia School, attending Dr. J’s last home Sixers game and soft pretzels smeared with hot mustard while hanging out near Independence Hall.
Q: Do you root for any of the Philly sports teams? If not, what teams do you root for?
A: I will be an Eagles, Phillies and Sixers fan forever. I was 11 when the Phils won the 1980 World Series, 13 when the Sixers won it all.
Q: Do you have any aspirations beyond your current job? Political? Author?
A: Writing THE OUTPOST: An Untold Story of American Valor, a true story of American troops under fire in Afghanistan, remains perhaps the most satisfying and long-lasting professional experience of my life, so I hope to write another book some time soon.
Q: What qualities does it take to maintain a high profile journalistic position in such a competitive marketplace?
A: My advice for any young or aspiring journalist is to get used to rejection and negative feedback, because it is a huge part of the job—trying to explain controversial events, struggling to compete for viewers or readers, competing with ambitious rivals, all of it takes perseverance and a thick hide.
Q: Describe the preparation you put into the recent GOP debate.
A: For more than a month, my team and I solicited suggestions from the public and from wise political experts, honed our questions and even staged a few mock debates. I also reached out to members of the Reagan administration and Reagan family to see what they thought were important issues to ask about.
Q: How do you feel the night went overall? Would you do anything different if you had the chance?
A: We’re all very pleased with how the night went. The debate brought forward some serious differences on policy and politics among the candidates, and we pushed them to actually debate. Obviously viewers agreed, given that ratings were higher than for any other CNN event in the history of the network. I’m not a perfect person and it wasn’t a perfect debate, so I could always go back and find things I could have done differently, but generally everyone was very excited about how it went.
Q: Which of the candidates do you feel purported themselves well during the debate?
A: The pundit (and public, according to polls) consensus seems to be that Fiorina, Rubio and Christie did well. But it’s tough for me to truly assess given that I wasn’t able to really assess the performances with so many other things going on in my head during those five hours.
Q: How did you handle the criticism of the format of the debate by certain political and media critics?
A: I disagree with it. And thankfully so did 23 million American viewers.
Q: What is your favorite Philly food?
A: Four-way tie: soft pretzel with hot mustard, John’s Water Ice, Termini Brothers’ cannoli, Geno’s cheesesteak with provolone.
Q: If you had to choose one famous Philadelphian that you admire, who is it and why?
A: Tie between Benjamin Franklin and Julius Erving, for obvious reasons.