CNN and CEO Chris Licht came in for fierce criticism of the chaotic town hall the cable news network held with Donald Trump on Wednesday.
During his 2024 presidential campaign, Trump sat down with CNN this morning anchor Kaitlan Collins at the New Hampshire event. The 70-minute City Hall was populated by mostly Trump supporters and likely Republican voters, and the former president was able to dominate the proceedings, overwhelming Collins who tried unsuccessfully to disprove Trump’s statements and falsehoods on issues such as the 6th Capitol bombing. January correct. , a federal ban on abortion, immigration and the war in Ukraine.
A particularly shocking exchange occurred over E. Jean Carroll, who was awarded $5 million in damages this week after a jury in New York found Trump liable for sexual assault and defamation against the writer. Among other things, Trump again claimed he didn’t know who Carroll was and described her as an “asshole” to loud cheers from the audience.
The lack of backlash from Collins and Trump’s bullying performance has been a boon to his campaign team. On the New York Times live blog of City Hall reporter Jonathan Swan wrote, “Trump advisers are excited about how this is going to go this far for him. They can’t believe he gets an hour on CNN with an audience applauding his every line and laughing at every joke.”
In the days leading up to City Hall, CNN was criticized for platforming Trump, but backlash against the network, and Light in particular, gained momentum as events unfolded and as it ended. The reaction on social media among the commentators was almost unanimously negative.
Responding to City Hall on MSNBC, New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called CNN’s decision to promote Trump as “shameful” and a “profoundly irresponsible decision.”
“I don’t think Zucker would have let this happen,” tweeted former CNN reporter Rebecca Buck.
Jay Rosen, professor of journalism at New York University, tknow“Was that the center you’d like CNN to return to, Chris Licht?”
“This is the nadir of CNN as an organization,” tweeted journalist James Fallows.
Former NYT reporter Bill Carter tweeted, “This thing was madness, total madness. Like handing a mic to drunk uncle and saying go for it!”
“CNN was totally unprepared to hold Trump accountable. CNN has done our democracy a complete disservice. I withheld judgment on this until I saw it. CNN, you have failed journalism and our country.” tweeted Matt Dowd, former aide to George W. Bush.
Daily beast columnist Wajahat Ali tweeted,” Trump calls Kaitlin Collins a “mean person” after she just followed up. The audience laughed and clapped. Congratulations, Chris Licht and CNN executive. Bravo. What a way to treat your employees.”
CNBC’s media reporter Alex Sherman tweeted, “CNN CEO Chris Licht said he would not allow anyone on his network who said it is raining when it is not. But he’s now let someone in who says it’s raining when it’s not raining, and added hundreds of people to applaud when he does.”
This wasn’t Kaitlin Collins’ fault. The format was impossible and the bosses of CNN should have known that. Chris Licht is fast becoming CNN’s Elon Musk.” tweeted Charlie Sykes of the Stronghold.
Licht took over as CEO of CNN in February 2022, after Jeff Zucker stepped down after failing to disclose a consensual relationship with a colleague. Under his tenure, Licht has attempted to reposition CNN as a news organization, moving away from opinion-based programming and reducing the use of the “Breaking News” banner. He has also had to make sweeping cost cuts demanded by Warner Bros. Discovery chief David Zaslav notably jettisoned CNN+ less than a month after the streaming service launched.
On the talent side, Licht has been daring in ditching star anchors, reporters, and big pundits, including Brian Stelter, John Harwood, and Jeffrey Toobin. He also oversaw the shocking decision to fire longtime CNN host Don Lemon in April.
In a statement shared with The Hollywood Reportera network spokesperson responded to widespread criticism CNN received for organizing the town hall.
“Tonight, Kaitlan Collins exemplified what it means to be a world-class journalist,” the CNN report read. “She asked hard, honest and revealing questions. And she tracked and monitored President Trump in real time to provide voters with crucial information about his views as he runs as the Republican frontrunner in the 2024 election. That is CNN’s role and responsibility: getting answers and holding the powerful accountable.”