Former US President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event in Manchester, New Hampshire, US, on Thursday, April 27, 2023.
Adam Glanzman | Bloomberg | Getty Images
It may not seem unusual for a leading presidential candidate to sit for a live interview with a major television news network.
But when the candidate is former President Donald Trump — whose public remarks are frequently peppered with falsehoods — and the network is one he has repeatedly denounced as “fake news,” the booking is bound to raise eyebrows.
Trump participated Wednesday night in a CNN live town hall in New Hampshire. The event, moderated by “CNN This Morning” anchor Kaitlan Collins, featured a live audience of Republicans and undeclared voters asking questions of the GOP frontrunner.
The town hall marked Trump’s first appearance on the network since the 2016 presidential campaign, according to CNN. Since that time, Trump has railed against the network, its ratings, its leadership and many of its on-air personalities.
But following a change in leadership at CNN and amid a reported ratings slump, the network has apparently decided to give Trump another chance.
“He’s the Republican frontrunner. He has to be on,” Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, whose company owns CNN, said of Trump on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” last week.
The decision raised concerns from Trump’s critics, who argue giving the ex-president a live platform to spread misinformation neglects the lessons the media learned during his presidency. Some of them have also accused new CNN CEO Chris Licht of trying to court a more centrist audience as part of his overhaul of the network.
E. Jean Carroll exits the Manhattan Federal Court following the verdict in the civil rape accusation case against former U.S. President Donald Trump, in New York City, May 9, 2023.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters
The timing has only heightened the controversy. The town hall comes one day after a New York jury found Trump liable for sexual abuse and defamation in a civil case brought by writer E. Jean Carroll.
The jury ordered Trump to pay Carroll $5 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
It’s far from clear whether the outcome of that trial, which Trump decried in a stream of social media posts Tuesday evening and which his lawyer has vowed to appeal, will affect his bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
Trump, who lost his 2020 reelection bid to President Joe Biden, still appears to be the de facto head of the Republican Party. Even his would-be primary rivals had mostly muted reactions to the jury’s damning verdict.
Trump appeared to chide CNN ahead of the town hall, suggesting in a social media post the network booked him “because they are rightfully desperate to get these fantastic (TRUMP!) ratings once again.”
“Could be the beginning of a New & Vibrant CNN, with no more Fake News, or it could turn into a disaster for all, including me. Let’s see what happens?” Trump wrote.