Tapper was asked by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on-air on Thursday what he thought of the criticism that the debate ran “a little too long.”
“That was a decision made by my boss, and yours, [CNN President] Jeff Zucker," Tapper said. "So it’s not one I would second-guess.”
Tapper explained that the network’s decision to make the debate three hours long allowed all 11 participants to share their positions. Still, he said, they didn’t cover all the ground he hoped to.
“There were a number of issues that I wanted to get to, that I had questions for that we didn’t get to: veterans’ affairs, Black Lives Matter, police, education, trade,” Tapper said. “We let people go back and forth if we thought it was good so some of those questions fell by the wayside. The truth is I could have gone another hour, but I don't think the viewers would have stuck with us."
Others, like GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, have suggested more cynical reasons for CNN’s decision to prolong the debate.
Trump told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that the three-hour run time was “unacceptable” and suggested CNN was motivated by increasing advertising revenues for the high-profile event.
"That had nothing to do with anything else," Trump said.
The news channel announced on Thursday that 23 million viewers tuned into the debate, making it the most-watched program in CNN's history.