Following widespread backlash that included calls by prominent journalists for CEO Chris Licht to resign, CNN released a statement defending Wednesday night’s Donald Trump town hall presentation, as well as the event’s moderator, Kaitlan Collins.
“Tonight, Kaitlan Collins exemplified what it means to be a world-class journalist. She asked tough, fair and revealing questions. And she followed up and fact-checked President Trump in real time to arm voters with crucial information about his positions as he enters the 2024 election as the Republican frontrunner. That is CNN’s role and responsibility: to get answers and hold the powerful to account,” the network said in a statement Thursday night.
Many critics beg to differ.
The town hall, which took place in New Hampshire Wednesday night, was filled with an audience of Republican and GOP-leaning independents, who laughed and cheered after nearly all of Trump’s wild statements. CNN gave Trump a platform to further defame and shame E. Jean Carroll, speak fondly of the January 6 rioters, and reiterate false claims about the 2020 election being rigged.
Collins attempted to counter Trump’s claims, clarifying that the election was not rigged, but the pushbacks were fairly tepid and largely went unremarked by the audience.
At one point, Trump called Collins a “nasty person” as she attempted to probe Trump about his refusal to hand over classified documents to the federal government. Trump received roaring applause for the dig.
Following the town hall, MSNBC host Medhi Hasan wrote that the interview was “always doomed to fail,” but pondered “what did CNN or Kaitlan Collins think would happen?”.
Critics such as journalist Mark Harris and political consultant Simon Rosenberg demanded that CNN CEO should step down. Democratic congressional representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said CNN “should be ashamed,” adding that that the network allowed the town hall to “be manipulated into platforming election disinformation, defenses of [the January 6 Capitol riots], and a public attack on a sexual abuse victim.”