CNN hosts Lisa Ling and W. Kamau Bell both say that, as journalists who have traveled across the country, they weren’t surprised by Donald Trump’s victory in last year’s presidential election.
“I wasn’t really surprised,” said Ling, who hosts the show “This Is Life,” at the Television Critics Association press tour on Saturday. “My objective is to allow people to better understand each other. Because I think we got to a place where one side espouses a certain way of thinking, and the other side espouses another, and it became so vitriolic.”
Ling said that her documentary series, which sees her interviewing people across the country, has helped her to escape the political echo chamber of the metropolitan coasts. In fact, she spent the week after the election embedded with members of a militia, whom she said were “probably the last people I wanted to spend time with.”
“At the end of the day, I really learned a lot from them … and got a better understanding of them and what their struggles were about,” she added.
Bell, who hosts CNN’s “United Shades of America,” echoed Ling’s sentiments, saying that as a traveling comedian, he’s interacted with many different kinds of people, including members of the Ku Klux Klan.
“I was not surprised a bit,” he said. “This is where we’re at, and this is par for the course for America.”
“Believer” host Reza Aslan added that people’s reaction to bigotry in the wake of the election has been to try to explain why it’s wrong. But that’s the wrong approach, he said.
“Prejudice or bigotry is about fear, not lack of knowledge,” he said. “And fear is impervious to data … you can’t logic or reason fear away … The only way you can dissipate fear is by building relationships.”
And that’s what all three hosts agree they aim to do with their shows.