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Disastrous Trump town hall begs the question: What was CNN thinking?

Donald Trump does not change – ever

Andrew Feinberg
Thursday 11 May 2023 11:24 BST
Trump refuses to acknowledge he lost ‘rigged’ 2020 election in CNN town hall event

Oh, to be a fly on the wall at CNN’s editorial meeting on Thursday.

What did they think would happen when they put Donald Trump and an audience of friendly supporters on live television for an hour and a half?

Did they think treating him like a normal candidate would lead him to act like a normal candidate?

Did they think making the moderator of the town hall a young, female reporter who once worked for the right-wing Daily Caller would lead him to treat her with respect even when she pointed out that he was blatantly lying on any number of topics?

Look, I get the reasoning behind offering Mr Trump a town hall appearance.

He’s the current frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination and there’s at least some chance that he could somehow win next year’s general election.

And after years of open warfare between the ex-president and CNN (leading in some cases to their White House reporters needing full-time security details), the network’s new management wanted a reset.

But did they actually think Donald Trump was going to turn over a new leaf and act respectful?

I spent four years covering then-president Trump in the White House. Before that, I watched him on the campaign trail. Since leaving office, he has never really left the political scene.

And one thing is clear about Donald Trump – he does not change, ever.

Instead of making a decision based on the evidence that journalists — including moderator Kaitlan Collins — collected over the last seven-plus years, CNN executives engaged in what was wishful thinking at best and outright delusion at worst.

The result was what one anonymous CNN on-air personality described as “awful” and “a Trump infomercial”.

CNN viewers, the American people, and Collins herself, deserved better.

I know Collins. I worked alongside her and many other excellent journalists during the most tumultuous days of Mr Trump’s administration.

She is a diligent, fair and conscientious reporter. And her bosses put her in an impossible position by forcing her to contend with the most shameless liar in American politics while he was being cheered on by an audience that sounded more like a sitcom laugh track than anything else.

And for her efforts to counter his lies while remaining respectful, he treated her like he’s treated so many other female — always female — reporters who dare to call him out.

He called her “nasty”.

Which in the end, returns me to the same question: What did they think was going to happen?

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