CNN Defends Presidential Town Halls Despite Poor Ratings: ‘It’s the Right Thing to Do’

“CNN does not host presidential town halls for ratings,” the company tells the Daily Caller

Last Updated: April 12, 2019 @ 7:09 AM

CNN offered a defense of their frequent town hall events with the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, responding to a Daily Caller article by saying that they weren’t in it for the ratings but rather because it was “the right thing to do.”

“CNN does not host presidential town halls for ratings,” the company said through the @CNNPR Twitter account. “We host them because substantive conversations with presidential candidates inform and empower voters to make the best possible choices for their families and communities. And it’s the right thing to do.”

The Daily Caller piece by reporter Mike Brest took aim at the network by noting how every one of CNN’s 12 Democratic presidential town halls had come far behind Fox News and MSNBC’s regularly scheduled programming.

“The average viewership of CNN’s town halls were approximately 903,000 people,” Brest reported. “Comparatively, the Fox News programming that was going on while the town halls aired averaged 2.2 million viewers, whereas the MSNBC programming had 1.8 million viewers.”

The story received a big boost from President Trump, who retweeted it to his nearly 60 million followers.

CNN — which has long placed third in ratings behind their more opinionated rivals — rarely responds to negative ratings stories, but according to network media reporter Brian Stelter, the presidential retweet “prompted CNN P.R. to respond with a useful reminder that ratings are not the only rubric for a television network.”

With the 2020 Democratic presidential primary now well underway, CNN has looked to set itself up as a leader in early town hall events with candidates. The channel has presented talks with Sens. Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand. The network has also sponsored events with South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.