AU responds to Anderson Cooper’s ‘wonk’ blunder
2013 “Wonk of the Year” Anderson Cooper struggled to define “wonk” on live television Dec. 31, sparking debate among students and alumni about AU’s wonk marketing campaign.
Comedian Kathy Griffin asked Cooper what the award meant after poking fun at its name during the pair’s annual show “New Year’s Eve Live With Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin” on CNN.
“You don’t think that’s funny that you got a award called the ‘Wonk of the Year’?” Griffin said.
Cooper initially appeared unsure before tentatively explaining a wonk.
“Well I took it to mean… I don’t really know what it meant,” Cooper said. “I mean it’s someone who is like a specialist or like focuses on stuff, you know, like a policy wonk.”
Griffin noted Cooper’s vague answer to her question during the broadcast.
“Well I hope that your speech was was a little more specific and filled with gratitude towards American University where you received it,” Griffin said.
Cooper received AU’s “Wonk of the Year” award in 2013 in which he gave a speech at the University on Oct. 19, The Eagle previously reported. The award is given out each year to an individual who represents AU’s values of passion, focus and engagement, according to AU’s website.
Giffin’s mention of the award on live television prompted varied reactions by the University, alumni and students.
Terry Flannery, AU’s vice president of communications, responded to Cooper’s comments in a memo released on the University’s website, focusing on the positive of the broadcast.
“Would we expect the topic to be treated seriously by a comedian?” Flannery said. “No. But I liked Cooper’s first instinct—saying that it was sweet and he was honored to receive it.”
However, alumni and students’ reactions on social media were largely negative as many claimed Cooper’s comment embarrassed AU and voiced their dissatisfaction with the University’s wonk campaign.
“I never expected to see the huge response I did to my status, but seeing my old peers – greeks, art students, business students, even faculty – respond so strongly, I figured I owed them more of an explanation,” Gibson said in an email to The Eagle. “There’s no reason we can’t brand ourselves in a way that pleases both new students and alumni, but right now that appears to be the case.”
Student Government plans to address students’ opinions of the wonk campaign during the next University Marketing Advisory Council in January, SG President Patrick Kelly said.
“Given the statements that were said about the “Wonk of the Year” Award during the CNN New Year’s Eve Broadcast, a lot of students have taken to social media to voice what is largely frustration,” Kelly said.