Missed The CNN Trump Town Hall? Well I Wouldn't Say We *Missed It*, Bob!
CNN hosted a town hall with Donald Trump Wednesday night in New Hampshire. This would've been bad enough when Trump was simply a twice-impeached wannabe dictator, but as of Tuesday, he's now a twice-impeached wannabe dictator whom a jury found liable for sexual abuse. And here's how CNN advertised the town hall, even after the E. Jean Carroll verdict.
Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter are adequately described as "former presidents." The more fitting modifiers for Trump are “coup plotter,” “insurrectionist,” and “attempted democracy murderer.” He incited a violent attack against a co-equal branch of government. Even now, he still tacitly (if not outright) encourages violence against his political opponents and perceived enemies. He's a dangerous, repulsive man and a reputable news organization shouldn't provide him a national platform.
Joe Biden, or his email writer, had the right idea:
I recall how even the shadiest defense attorneys on "Law & Order" (yes, the show was copaganda) would never put their clients on the stand when they knew they would lie. CNN's Trump town hall is the journalistic equivalent of suborning perjury. They had to know Trump would lie about the 2020 election and the court cases he’s either just lost or is in the process of losing. That's what he does.
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Former Capitol Police Officer Michael Fanone, whom Trump almost got killed, called out CNN for hosting the town hall in an op-ed aptly titled “CNN Is Hosting a Town Hall for a Guy Who Tried to Get Me Killed.”
It is not just that Trump’s lies and political rhetoric sparked an uprising at our nation’s Capitol. Trump, as U.S. president, lied in an effort to defraud the American people and overturn a free and fair election in an attempt to remain in power. (See the January 6th Select Committee’s Report.) In doing so he betrayed every aspect of his oath to represent us as Americans. We no longer need to imagine what Trump is capable of. He has shown us that he is an authoritarian who will use any means at his disposal, including violence, to remain in power.
Putting him onstage, having him answer questions like a normal candidate who didn’t get people killed in the process of trying to end the democracy he’s attempting to once again run, normalizes what Trump did. It sends a message that attempting a coup is just part of the process; that accepting election results is a choice; and that there are no consequences, in the media or in politics or anywhere else, for rejecting them.
This is all true, but Fanone, a CNN contributor, claims the cable network declined to run his op-ed. Maybe CNN considers lies more engaging.
Normalizing Trump in any way is to be complicit in his ongoing attack on democracy. He, along with his entire family, should have fled to Brazil after January 6, but just two years later, he’s staging a comeback. CNN took every precaution to make him feel comfortable. The audience for the CNN town hall was reportedly 400 Republicans and right-leaning independents. You could rightly anticipate questions along the lines of "Mr. Trump, your campaign seems to have the momentum of a runaway freight train. Why are you so popular?"
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins introduced the town hall like it was the beginning of Frankenstein. She promised, “No questions are off the table, and we agreed to no conditions.” Fortunately, Donald Trump is a man of his word … no, wait, he’s none of that at all. He steamrolled Collins and buried herunder a bed of cement lies.
\u201cTrump pushes the big lie during his very first response. Kaitlan Collins interjects that "it was not a rigged election." Trump responds by lying some more.\u201d— Aaron Rupar (@Aaron Rupar) 1683761455
The town hall audience greeted the sex abuser with a round of applause. Trump immediately started lying about the “rigged election.” Collins said the election wasn’t rigged, and Trump just lied some more. He offered no new material. It was like giving a town hall to a washed-up nightclub comic, except with more stochastic terrorism.
Collins asked him about his call to terminate the Constitution, and he lied and claimed he said no such thing (he did). Collins didn't challenge him further. He got another round of applause when he said Mike Pence should’ve helped him steal the election, so that was scary. The audience also laughed when Trump grossly smeared E. Jean Carroll, a woman he sexually abused. He later called Collins a “nasty person” (a more gender-inclusive version of his “nasty woman” dig) and the audience roared. It’s like when they put a laugh track over a horror movie.
Soon, Trump was just in a seditionist groove, offering to pardon convicted January 6 rioters, many of whom viciously attacked cops, and even the Proud Boys. After all, they did “stand by” as he requested. It's hardly a spoiler to reveal that he wouldn't agree to accept the 2024 election results if he lost again.
Once CNN's journalistic arson was over, Jake Tapper and Anderson Cooper discussed how terrible it was. The Trump town hall was a disgrace, and CNN should feel ashamed. This is what we’re up against in 2024: We're not just trying to keep a twice-impeached, wannabe dictator out of the White House. We have to deal with a mainstream media that's desperate to rehabilitate him.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."