Friday, May 12, 2023

CNN's Trump interview may have back-fired badly

After CNN's recent foray into high-risk television, people are speaking out about its decision to interview Donald Trump. With views ranging from "outright disaster" to "major inflection point" to "worthy exercise in democracy", it has certainly generated debate.

Given that CNN has been Trump's main media punching bag for years, and his most vocal and outspoken critic, it was a brave and certainly a strange move on CNN 's part to hold a prime-time "town hall" style interview with Trump, held in New Hampshire with a deliberately partisan audience of Republican voters who cheered his every word and laughed at all his jokes. It went pretty much how you might have expected it to, with Trump doubling down on his various lies, interrupting and bad-mouthing the interviewer, and steamrolling over any attempt at fact-checking (as CNN should have known, Trump's lies and errors come thicker and faster than any fact-checker can respond).

CNN's journalists have been at pains since the event to justify it. Event interviewer Kaitlyn Collins called it "a major inflection point in the Republican Party's search for its nominee and potentially the starting line for America's next presidential race" (an inflection point implies a change of direction - I see no such change). Anderson Cooper argued, "Do you think staying on your silo and only listening to people you agree with is going to meet that person go away?" (But does Trump really need CNN to help him get his message out, I think most people on the right and the left know where he is coming from). CNN Worldwide's CEO Chris Licht defended it by claiming that "people woke up and they know what the stakes are in this election in a way that they didn't the day before" (ditto: most CNN watchers were quite aware of Trump and the existential threat he poses).

Many disagree. Former CNN correspondent Keith Olbermann called it "the Hindenberg of TV news", noting that "CNN gave its credibility to Trump's madness", and called for resignations. MSNBC's Mehdi Hasan opines, "I would argue that 'making news' is not our job; holding power to account is. And on that measure, the town hall last night was a complete and utter failure". Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez points out that "CNN allowing sexual assault to be treated like a joke to an applauding audience is egregious".

Frankly, I think the nays have it. Trump does not need more free publicity from his opponents.

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