CNN’s Anderson Cooper devoted part of his prime-time show to backlash against the network for his town hall with Donald Trump, in which the Republican spewed lies and misinformation to a friendly and enthusiastic audience.
“You have every right to be outraged and angry and never watch this network again,” Cooper told viewers. “But do you think staying in your silo and only listening to people you agree with is going to make that person leave?”
Cooper’s comments were a defense of the network’s decision to move forward with town hall, plans that drew criticism last week as many predicted moderator Kaitlan Collins would be able to fully vet the Trump facts in real time. Although she tried to point out some of her misinformation, Trump seemed emboldened by the friendly audience, and at times veered from topic to topic, and never admitted that the 2020 presidential election was legit.
“Many of you have expressed deep anger and disappointment,” Cooper said. “Many of you are upset that someone who tried to destroy our democracy was asked to sit on the stage in front of a crowd of Republican voters to answer questions, and predictably, he kept throwing up lie after lie after lie. And I get it. It was disturbing.
After going through a list of Trump’s outrageous lies and comments, Cooper said: “It was certainly unsettling to hear this audience young and old, our fellow citizens, people who love their children and go to church, laughing and applaud his lies.And his continued defamation of a woman who, according to a jury of his peers, he sexually abused and defamed.
Perhaps most disturbing was when Trump was asked about a $5 million jury verdict finding him liable for sexual assault and defamation of E. Jean Carroll. Trump mocked her and called the trial “rigged,” while receiving applause and even laughter from the audience. The New York Times reported that Carroll is now considering whether to file a new defamation lawsuit against Trump based on comments he made at the event.
CNN Worldwide CEO Chris Licht is facing criticism from outside and inside the network over the decision to run for mayor with Trump. He also defended the event during a staff call this morning. “There’s so much we learned last night about what a second Trump presidency would look like, it’s extremely important for the country to hear,” Licht said.
Some reporters, like Chris Wallace and Jonathan Swan, were able to pin Trump down in one-on-one interviews, interrupting him before he launched into a stream of untruths. But these were pre-recorded sessions, not live and not in front of an audience.
After Wednesday’s event, Mark Lukasiewicz, a former chief information officer for the network who is now dean of Hofstra University’s School of Communication, wrote, “Live lying works. Live fact-checking does not. Others have also accused the format of playing to Trump’s strengths and even normalizing it.
In his remarks, Cooper not only argued that the network could not ignore the frontrunner for the GOP nomination, but that it was also important for viewers to realize the extent of his support, as disturbing as Trump’s words. and public reaction can do so. have been.
He told viewers that “As good as Kaitlan Collins did in trying to fact check him, it’s impossible to fully fact check because he lies so shamelessly. Now, many of you feel that CNN shouldn’t have given him a platform to speak, and I understand the anger about that, giving him the audience, the time, I understand. But that’s also what I get. The man you were so disturbed to see and hear last night. This man is the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. And according to the polls, no other Republican is even close. This man you were so upset about last night, he may be President of the United States in less than two years. And this audience that upset you? It’s a sample of about half the country. They are your family members, your neighbors, and they vote, and many said they voted for him.
He added: “Now maybe you haven’t paid attention to him since he left office. Maybe you enjoyed not hearing from him thinking it can’t happen again, an investigation will stop it. Well, that’s not the case so far. So if last night showed anything, it showed that it can happen again. It happens again. He hasn’t changed and he runs strong.
Collins anchored CNN’s 9 p.m. hour tonight, opening the show by saying town hall “was a major inflection point in the Republican Party’s search for its next candidate and potentially the starting line of the next US presidential race”. She, too, noted that Trump was the Republican frontrunner.
The town hall attracted 3.3 million viewers, enough for CNN to win the timeslot against its rivals and the evening itself. But given the heavy promotion and buzz in the political press, the viewership was still lower than six other similar events on Fox News and behind the viewership of a town hall featuring Joe Biden in 2020.
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