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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who has built a 13.4 million user following on Twitter, excoriated CNN during the Wednesday night event as anchor Kaitlan Collins attempted to push back on some of Trump’s assertions about the Capitol riot, “rigged” election claims, and more.
“CNN should be ashamed of themselves. They have lost total control of this ‘town hall’ to again be manipulated into platforming election disinformation, defenses of Jan 6th, and a public attack on a sexual abuse victim,” the congresswoman tweeted, referring to writer E. Jean Carroll.
The town hall — the first CNN event to feature Trump since the 2016 campaign — took place one day after a jury found Trump liable for sexually abusing and defaming Carroll but not liable for rape. Trump denied knowing Carroll and called her a “whack job.”
“This falls squarely on CNN,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Everyone here saw exactly what was going to happen. Instead they put a sexual abuse victim in harm’s way for views. This was a choice to platform lies about the election & Jan 6th w/ no plan but to have their moderator interrupted without consequence.”
With his arms crossed, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough called the town hall “disgraceful on every level.” He called Trump a “propagandist,” said the “most shocking” element to him was that the New Hampshire audience cheered on Trump at times, and concluded that what he witnessed was “as chilling as anything I’ve seen on television since January the 6th.”
“It was disgraceful on every level.” Joe Scarborough rips into CNN’s Trump Town Hall. (Video: MSNBC) pic.twitter.com/bv5U3sdreC
— Mike Sington (@MikeSington) May 11, 2023
Joy Behar, a co-host of ABC’s “The View,” also took aim at CNN. “I would like to know if CNN was passing out Kool-Aid before the event started,” she said after remarking on how the audience was “filled” with Trump’s “cult.”
"That is not American!"
Joy Behar RAGES at CNN for having Republican voters at their Trump town hall, served them Kool-Aid.
"What I didn't know was that the audience would be filled with his cult!"
"Why would CNN put only Republicans and people who love me in the audience?!" pic.twitter.com/uW06fJP0ER
— Nicholas Fondacaro (@NickFondacaro) May 11, 2023
Even within left-leaning CNN, there was an uproar.
“CNN and new network boss Chris Licht are facing a fury of criticism — both internally and externally over the event,” CNN’s media reporter Oliver Darcy reported in his “Reliable Sources” newsletter.
Daily Beast senior media reporter Justin Baragona shared a scathing review from an anonymous CNN on-air personality. “It is so bad. I was cautiously optimistic despite the criticism. It is awful. It’s a Trump infomercial. We’re going to get crushed,” this person reportedly said.
Gary Tuchman, a CNN national correspondent, interviewed several audience members after the town hall and found none of their opinions about Trump had changed afterward. One audience member chided CNN for jumping right to questions about the past at the start of the event rather than focusing on current issues when asked if it was bothersome that Trump focused so much on the 2020 election rather than 2024.
“I feel like part of it is also the media narrative, as you guys asked him the first question at the town hall about the 2020 election rather than current stuff,” said a 40-year-old Republican who voted for Trump twice.
CNN released a statement after the town hall defending its decision to host Trump and praising Collins for how she conducted herself during the event in which Trump dubbed her a “nasty person” at one point.
“Tonight Kaitlan Collins exemplified what it means to be a world-class journalist,” the network said. “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.”