Despite a cacophony of criticism preceding the night for legitimizing the twice impeached, indicted, and found liable for sexual abuse and defamation former president, CNN hosted a bizarre town hall event with Donald Trump on Wednesday evening.
Kaitlan Collins moderated the conversation, which predictably went off the rails immediately.
Trump repeated gripes and lies that he has told continually since the 2020 election, claiming it was stolen from him.
During her time as White House correspondent, Trump called Collins “nasty” and questioned her credibility, and he did so again during the program.
“You still have not publicly acknowledged the 2020 election results,” Collins asked, wondering why people should trust him to be back in the job.
“Unless you’re a very stupid person, you saw what happened,” he replied.
For much of the evening, Trump rambled about a “rigged election,” “the Twitter files,” and other nonsensical strung-together words.
Collins allowed Trump to go on without effective interruption as he jumped from one topic to another throughout the conversation. “We want to give you a chance tonight to acknowledge the results,” Collins tried to interject, but Trump continued to speak over the journalist in his typical combative manner.
When Collins could get a word in edgewise, Trump paused long enough for her to finish speaking but then continued his diatribes. When Collins repeatedly said there was no evidence of election fraud, seemingly in an attempt to fact-check Trump in real time, he mocked her to chuckles from the audience.
“You’re supposed to say that [and] I’m glad you say that, but look, that was a horrible election, and unless somebody is very stupid — and I know you very well, you’re not stupid at all — but you perhaps were given an agenda or have an agenda,” he replied before moving to the border.
Trump called the day of the Capitol insurrection on January 6, 2021, a “beautiful day” and described the people assembled there as having “love in their hearts.”
He said, “Crazy Nancy Pelosi and the mayor of Washington were in charge of security,” and claimed that he offered to send in military assistance when his supporters had overrun the Capitol Police force protecting the premises. Trump, who has been accused of unwanted sexual advances by dozens of women, called the mayor of D.C., Muriel Bowser, a “lovely lady” sarcastically.
At one point, he pulled out a prop. He had a printed list of tweets he claimed were evidence that he was demanding peace during the insurrection.
He described his social media platform, Truth Social, as far superior to Twitter as he continued reading old tweets.
Trump called the Capitol Police officer who protected the House chamber and shot insurrectionist Ashley Babbitt a “thug.”
Trump said he’d pardon “a large portion” of the January 6 rioters and then obfuscated by mentioning “Portland,” Antifa,” and “BLM.”
“I will say in Washington, D.C., you cannot get a fair trial,” Trump said in response to a question about whether he would pardon members of the Proud Boys convicted of seditious conspiracy.
“I never met this woman, I never saw this woman,” Trump said about Carrol and then proceeded to mock her story to the delight of the 400-member New Hampshire audience
Trump defended his comments on the set of Access Hollywood. He gloated that famous men could sexually harass and assault women with impunity. The remarks were part of the deposition in the Carroll case that saw a jury find Trump liable for sexual abuse.
“It happens to be true. I said it’s been true for a million years, approximately a million years, perhaps a little bit longer,” Trump told Collins after she asked if he still stood by what he said.
“Getting rid of Roe v. Wade was an incredible thing for pro-life because it gave pro-life something to negotiate with,” Trump said regarding the Dobbs decision, which ended abortion protections for Americans.
To him, the rights of pregnant people appear to be part of a negotiating position.
“Deals are being made, deals are going to be made [on abortion rights], “he said.
“By doing it, things are happening that are very, very positive,” he said, adding that he’s “for the exceptions.”
At one point, Collins, who had a challenging time wrangling the former president and could not correct him throughout the show, attempted to fact-check him, leading to a moment of fireworks.
“You’re a nasty person,” he said, as the sympathetic audience approved.
Throughout the show, Trump made admissions that legal experts afterward discussed as potentially problematic for future legal proceedings he is facing.
Reaction to the CNN event online was swift and plentiful.
GLAAD President and CEO expressed alarm about Trump’s performance.
“Last night's @CNN Town Hall with Donald Trump shows how dangerous his campaign and possible presidency would be for all LGBTQ people, women, people of color, and for our democracy,” she tweeted.
“CNN should be ashamed of themselves,” wrote Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New York Democrat, on Twitter. “They have lost total control of this “town hall” to again be manipulated into platforming election disinformation, defenses of January 6, and a public attack on a sexual abuse victim. The audience is cheering him on and laughing at the host.”
\u201cCNN should be ashamed of themselves.\n\nThey have lost total control of this \u201ctown hall\u201d to again be manipulated into platforming election disinformation, defenses of Jan 6th, and a public attack on a sexual abuse victim.\n\nThe audience is cheering him on and laughing at the host.\u201d
Others were critical of CNN’s new CEO Chris Licht, who recently fired out anchor Don Lemon after moving him from his prime-time show to daytime.
“CNN CEO Chris Licht said he wouldn’t allow anyone on his network that said it’s raining when it’s not,” wrote CNBC media reporter Alex Sherman. “But he’s let someone on now who says it’s raining when it’s not, and he added hundreds of people to applaud when he does it.”
\u201cCNN CEO Chris Licht said he wouldn't allow anyone on his network that said it's raining when it's not.\n\nBut he's let someone on now who says it's raining when it's not, and he added hundreds of people to applaud when he does it.\u201d
Harvard Law School instructor and trans activist Alejandra Caraballo summed up the night writing, “This is one of the [most] disgusting things I’ve ever seen [o]n TV, and CNN should be ashamed.”
She added, “The audience applauding sexual assault, the dehumanizing rhetoric calling immigrants diseased, the lies about abortion, and the election denial. It’s a conflagration of reality.”
\u201cThis is one of the disgusting things I've ever seen in TV and CNN should be ashamed. The audience applauding sexual assault, the dehumanizing rhetoric calling immigrants diseased, the lies about abortion, and the election denial. It's a conflagration of reality.\u201d