Presidential debates are about to get a makeover, as CNN's Anderson Cooper moderates the first-ever, voter-generated presidential forum. Gayle talks with Anderson about this groundbreaking event that uses videotaped questions submitted by users of YouTube.com, and sorted and selected by CNN, to engage candidates in a debate.
Anderson says that he and several CNN producers have been poring over videotaped questions submitted by the public and deciding which clips to use for the July 23 Democratic and September 17 Republican presidential debates. "The vast majority of [questions] are very serious—they're topics which people are clearly not just theoretically interested in, but living, in many cases," he says. "We have teachers, we have people in hospital beds, there is a guy with Lou Gehrig's disease who asks a question, there is a woman who is undergoing chemotherapy who takes off her wig in the middle of the question."
While many of the videotaped questions are emotional, Anderson says some are funny and others are rigged. "We are seeing some campaigns trying to kind of rig the process by telling their supporters a question to ask," he says. "We have 20 videos from different people around the country all asking the exact same question, and it is all geared to one particular candidate."
Overall, Anderson says he expects the questions chosen for the debates to be original and refreshing, and he hopes the candidates honor the spirit of the questions. "This is someone in their bedroom, lying on their bed, asking a question. This is someone in the hospital bed or out in the street," he says. "These people have put in time and energy and thought into questions which are clearly heartfelt to them, and my job is to make sure the candidates actually answer the questions," he says.