Thursday Reads: CNN’s “Town Hall” Train Wreck

Good Day, Sky Dancers!!

230510-trump-townhall-tease_vpsyswCNN’s “town hall” with Donald Trump and a handpicked audience of his fans was–as everyone but CNN boss Chris Licht predicted–a complete disaster. No one at CNN was happy (except Chris Licht), and the rest of the media world is stunned and horrified. I actually turned the program on for a few seconds, but I just couldn’t stomach watching Trump. Anyway, the reviews are in.

For a good summary of the reactions, you can read this Morning Shots post by Charlie Sykes at the Bulwark: The Moment That You Knew. What CNN’s disastrous town hall showed us.

Critics had worried that giving the indicted, twice-impeached, coup-plotting, chronically lying sexual predator an unedited, live television forum might turn out badly.

The reality, however, was far ghastlier: a sh*tshow for the ages, and a moment that captured the thorough degradation of both our politics and the media. “It was a f**king nightmare,” remarked one savvy observer, “and it was programmed to BE a f**king nightmare.”

Trump was, of course, thrilled.

For her part, Kaitlan Collins was poised, prepared, and determined, but she never stood a chance. She raised all of the key questions and tried (not always successfully) to ask followups.

But Trump just rolled over her with a torrent of invective, jibes, and bullsh*t. The fact-checkers were reduced to asterisks. “He declared war on the truth,” CNN anchor Jake Tapper said afterward. “And I’m not sure that he didn’t win.”

Where to start?

  • Trump called a black law enforcement officer a “thug.”
  • He repeated baseless conspiracy theories about 2020.
  • He lied about losing the 2020 election. (CNN’s Oliver Darcy tweeted: “I’ve lost count of how many times Trump has lied about the election. Collins keeps fact-checking him, but he keeps lying.”)
  • He lied about calling for “terminating” the Constitution so he could be returned to power.
  • He lied about his role on January 6th.
  • He suggested that he would pardon many of the January 6th insurrectionists.
  • He insisted again that Mike Pence should have overturned the election.
  • He endorsed letting the country default on its debt, even if it would bring on an economic cataclysm.
  • He claimed that residents of the Chinatown neighborhood in Washington, D.C., “did not speak English as part of an allegation that Biden stored boxes there after his vice presidency because he had nefarious ties to Beijing.”
  • He refused to back Ukraine against Russia.
  • He lashed out at Collins as “nasty woman” — and the audience CHEERED.

But this was hardly the worst of it. Actually, not even close.

The day after a federal jury found that the ex-president had sexually abused and defamed E. Jean Carroll, Trump turned the episode into a joke, mocking and insulting his victim.

And the crowd laughed.

Sykes then offers excerpts of some of the media reactions.

More reactions:

Rex Huppke at USA Today: CNN town hall audience laughs at sexual assault as Trump reminds us how awful he is.

Donald Trump took full advantage of CNN’s willingness to give him a platform Wednesday night, spouting lies faster than a sprinkler on a cocaine bender and giving Americans a reminder — as if they needed one — of how deplorable he and his supporters can be.

Sexual abuse, like the kind a jury just found Trump liable of? That’s a laugh line for these folks. Literally. They laughed during CNN’s town hall as Trump continued to likely defame E. Jean Carroll, the woman he was just found liable of defaming.

The Jan. 6 domestic terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol? Trump said he’ll swiftly pardon most of the now-imprisoned attackers, possibly even some of the Proud Boys who were convicted of seditious conspiracy, because they’re “great people.” And that brought applause from the crowd.

A rat-a-tat-tat string of lies about the “rigged election”? The crowd chuckled.

A lie about “finishing” the border wall he barely started? You know, the one Mexico didn’t pay for. The crowd applauded.

Lie, lie, lie, lie, lie. Laugh, applaud, chuckle, clap, cheer.

CNN effectively gave America a primetime Trump rally with fewer people selling offensive T-shirts outside. And for anyone who grew weary of Trump’s reflexive dishonesty and bullheaded cruelty while he was president, Wednesday night brought back nauseating memories, as well as a preview of how little has changed.

Matthew Chapman at Raw Story: Trump gave prosecutors new evidence for all three ongoing criminal cases: experts.

Legal experts believe that former President Donald Trump’s CNN town hall at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire gave fresh evidence to every one of the three ongoing criminal cases against him, reported Salon on Thursday.

The ongoing criminal cases against Trump — not including the bookkeeping fraud case over the Stormy Daniels hush payment, which has already been charged by Manhattan prosecutors — are the election interference probe in Georgia, the federal January 6 investigation, and the federal investigation of classified documents stashed at Mar-a-Lago — all of which came up during the town hall under the questioning of moderator and CNN anchor Kaitlan Collins.

“Trump repeatedly lied during the town hall that the election was ‘rigged,’ that Georgia ‘owed’ him votes, that he had the right to take classified documents to Mar-a-Lago and that he does not know E. Jean Carroll — the writer who was awarded $5 million a day earlier after it found Trump liable for sexual abuse and defamation,” reported Igor Derysh. “‘All three ongoing criminal cases got new evidence tonight against Trump,’ tweeted national security attorney Bradley Moss. ‘He is confessing on live television.'”

“Former FBI agent Pete Strzok called the comment [that he didn’t “really” share the classified documents with anyone] a ‘tacit admission of unauthorized disclosure of classified information,'” said the report. “During another exchange, Collins asked Trump about his call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, demanding he ‘find’ enough votes to swing the state’s election. Trump said he believed it was a ‘rigged election’ and said he told Raffensperger ‘you owe me votes because the election was rigged.’ ‘File this clip under new evidence for Fani Willis,’ tweeted Anthony Michael Kreis, a Georgia State University law professor. ‘This sure sounds like an admission of corrupt intent to me.'”

As for the January 6 probe, Trump agreed with Collins that the people who stormed the Capitol “listen to [him] like no one else” — which former federal prosecutor Elie Honig told Mediaite it was “the most important clip of the night” because the essential element of proving the crime is that Trump knew he had an influence on the rioters and “I’ve never heard him so clearly admit that. Everything Donald Trump says is out there. It’s fair game. It can be used.”

Not to mention that E. Jean Carroll could sue him again for defamation.

Abigail Weinberg at Mother Jones: Trump Mocked E. Jean Carroll Live on CNN. The Audience Laughed.

Yesterday, a federal jury found Donald Trump liable for sexually abusing and defaming writer E. Jean Carroll. As soon as journalist Kaitlan Collins mentioned the verdict during this evening’s CNN town hall with the former president, the audience of Republican-leaning New Hampshire voters started to laugh.

“I never met this woman. I never saw this woman,” Trump said, before launching into a mocking retelling of Carroll’s allegations about what Trump did to her in a New York department store. “What kind of a woman meets somebody and brings them up and within minutes you’re playing hanky-panky in a dressing room?”

Trump swore “on my children” that the alleged attack never happened, despite a jury of nine people unanimously finding otherwise. He also repeated an insult he has frequently lobbed at Carroll, calling her a “wack-job,” to rapturous laughter from the audience.

Ryan Bort, Diana Falzone, and Aswin Suebsaeng at Rolling Stone: ‘F–king Disgrace’: CNN Gifts Trump Primetime Campaign Rally.

CNN INVITED DONALD Trump to lie on its airwaves for over an hour on Wednesday night. The evening was billed as a town hall, but played more like a campaign rally for the former president, who steamrolled and repeatedly mocked moderator Kaitlan Collins, pushing a torrent of misinformation about the 2020 election, the multiple investigations into his conduct, and pretty much everything else he commented on.

One CNN insider who spoke to Rolling Stone called the evening “appalling,” lamenting that the network gave Trump “a huge platform to spew his lies.”

Collins tried her best to correct Trump as he spoke. And immediately after Trump went off-air, CNN anchor Jake Tapper led a parade of pundits and fact-checkers to counter his dissembling and pan his performance….

Nevertheless, the town hall was “a fucking disgrace,” in the words of another network insider. “1000 percent a mistake [to host Trump]. No one [at CNN] is happy.”

“Just brutal,” added one of the network’s primetime producers.

Chris Licht was okay with what happened though.

Chris Licht

Chris Licht

CEO Chris Licht acknowledged “that there has been people with opinions and backlash” during an editorial call Thursday morning — but he stood by the decision. “I absolutely unequivocally believe America was served very well by what we did last night,” he said. CNN’s own media reporter, Oliver Darcy, didn’t seem to agree. “It’s hard to see how America was served by the spectacle of lies that aired on CNN Wednesday evening,” he wrote in his newsletter the previous night.

CNN is finished if this moron stays in charge.

Wajat Ali at The Daily Beast: CNN Failed America With Its Train Wreck of a Trump Town Hall.

With its Republican presidential town hall on Wednesday, CNN failed journalism, the American public, and its own employees by deciding to invite an arsonist who has spent the past seven years trying to burn down their house.

We should remember that Trump regularly refers to CNN as “fake news,” and has trained his cult to see all media that is critical of him as the “enemy of the people.” As a result, CNN had to evacuate its NYC headquarters in 2018 due to a bomb threat. The next year, Cesar Sayoc, who sent functional pipe bombs to Trump’s critics, including CNN, was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

In turn, CNN decided to reward Trump for his reckless and dangerous behavior by giving him a 70-minute Festivus to air his grievances and lies in front of a fawning cult of 400 sycophants in New Hampshire, which reflected the full spectrum of whiteness and cruelty.

According to NPR, CNN’s current CEO Chris Licht “told his staff they are re-establishing the channel’s original identity.” After witnessing this embarrassing town hall, one could not be faulted for assuming Licht believes that identity is one of masochism and self-immolation. These are apparently the character traits that are needed to gain ratings, money, and access to GOP power. When CNN anchor and moderator Kaitlin Collins attempted to interject with actual facts, Trump simply doubled down on his bullshit and gave red meat in the form of rage, lies, and conspiracies, which the audience and his MAGA base heartily ate up. An hour into the circus, Trump called Collins a “nasty person”—simply because she stood her ground and asked follow-up questions.

The MAGA audience loved it.

David Zaslav, the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, defended the town hall on CNBC last week and said that “all voices should be heard on CNN.” This apparently includes the voices of white nationalists, antisemites, conspiracy theorists, and misogynists. He added, “This is a new CNN.”

There’s more at the link.

I can’t believe I thought we would be rid of Trump after he lost the 2020 election and then led a failed coup against the U.S. government. Boy was I ever wrong! This monster is going to be with us a long as he’s still breathing, and the media is going to help him.

That’s it for me today; I’m already exhausted. Please feel free to discuss this or any other topics in the comment thread.

15 Comments on “Thursday Reads: CNN’s “Town Hall” Train Wreck”

  1. bostonboomer says:

    I hope you all have a pleasant Thursday.

  2. dakinikat says:

  3. quixote says:

    All I can think, reading about that crime-in-progress that Chris Licht got clicks for, is Christine Blasey-Ford’s sentence,

    “Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter.”

    • NW Luna says:

      I can’t believe I thought we would be rid of Trump after he lost the 2020 election and then led a failed coup against the U.S. government.

      Me too, BB. Me too. I thought at least his audience would be skeptical, but no.

  4. dakinikat says:

  5. Thank you BB for this…I could not watch the shit show, but my dad had it on and I could hear him yelling at the TV last night.

    Fuck CNN and Fuck tRump.

  6. NW Luna says:

  7. VA in SC says:

    Who if anyone questioned why only Republicans and/or GoP voters as an audience, is in public interest?

  8. NW Luna says:

  9. bostonboomer says: