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CNN staffers, talent fume over network hosting Trump town hall

"I’m not sure we made enough news to counterbalance just giving Trump a perch to lie from with a laugh track," one staffer said.

Published: May 12, 2023 8:35pm

Tensions are mounting inside CNN in the aftermath of a high-profile town hall event that marked former President Donald Trump's return to the network.

The Wednesday evening town hall took place at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire, a critical primary battleground. Moderator Kaitlan Collins helped the former president field questions from the Republican-leaning crowd. The network has defended Collins, saying she "exemplified what it means to be a world-class journalist."

Pundits on both sides of the aisle, however, saw the event as a major political win for Trump, with progressives such as New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez castigating the network for giving a platform to the former president. Conservative, meanwhile, cheered him for effectively steamrolling over Collins.

Breitbart opinion columnist John Nolte, who had vocally opposed the former president appearing on the network, declared he had been wrong to do so and cheered Trump, whom he said "might have delivered the killshot" to the network.

Within CNN, staff appear to agree with both figures, with one "prominent on-air talent" telling The Hill that "[i]t was a total debacle and I’ve never been more ashamed to work at CNN... I don’t think anybody came out looking good. This is entirely a corporate and management failure. They should have anticipated how out of control Trump would be."

"I’m not sure we made enough news to counterbalance just giving Trump a perch to lie from with a laugh track," another said, per The Hill.

On-air, host Anderson Cooper vocally sympathized with the network's detractors, saying "[m]any of you have expressed deep anger and disappointment. Many of you are upset that someone who attempted to destroy our democracy was invited to sit on the stage in front of a crowd of Republican voters and answer questions, and predictably continues to spew lie after lie after lie. And I get it. It was disturbing."

"You have every right to be outraged today and be angry and never watch this outlet again," he conceded. "But do you think staying in your silo and only listening to people you agree with is going to make that person go away?"

CNN media reporter Oliver Darcy fumed at the network, saying the event "felt like 2016 all over again. It was Trump’s unhinged social media feed brought to life on stage."

The internal drama and resentment toward management, however, comes at a time of declining ratings for the network, which did see boost the night of the town hall.

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on Twitter.

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