Trump's Town Hall Could Be a Minefield for Him ... and CNN

Candidate will appear in a live town hall at 8pm ET Wednesday
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 10, 2023 8:13 AM CDT
In Wake of Verdict, Trump to Take Questions From Voters
Former President Trump speaks at the National Rifle Association Convention in Indianapolis, on April 14, 2023.   (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)

Former President Trump will appear in a live CNN town hall on Wednesday night—marking his first appearance in seven years on the network he has derided as "fake," and one that comes a day after he was found liable for sexual battery and defamation in the E. Jean Carroll case. The town hall, held at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire, will begin at 8pm Eastern and feature an audience of Republican and independent voters who will be lobbing questions his way. Kaitlan Collins will host and "no question is off the table," says the network. As Politico notes, it's "virtually ensur[ed]" that he'll be asked about the verdict. More:

  • The stakes were high before the verdict. That's NPR's take, which notes there's some real intention behind Trump's choice to appear on CNN. Trump and Fox News owners Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch are on the outs, in part because of their favorable treatment of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The CNN appearance is "intended to allow Trump to demonstrate his independence from a network often favored by his fans."
  • But it's proving to be a bit of a minefield for CNN. The New York Times reports critics are questioning why the network would give a live platform "to someone who defended rioters at the United States Capitol and still insists the 2020 election was rigged"—and now someone who has been found liable of sexual abuse. Others, like Ted Koppel, say that's overblown: "I'm not sure that news organizations should necessarily be in the business of making ideological judgments. Is he a legitimate object of news attention? You bet."

  • A possible minefield for Trump? The AP notes Trump "historically has not reacted well when pressed on stage about his behavior toward women," and flags that Republican presidential debate in 2015 when he clashed with then-Fox News host Megyn Kelly and later said she had "blood coming out of her wherever" during her questioning of him.
  • More on the minefield potential. The Hill says both the candidate and network will have to carefully thread the needle when it comes to questions on the Carroll verdict. "A repeat of his previous attacks on Carroll’s character seems at least plausible—as well as politically risky, given how the whole matter could repel female voters, in particular. CNN would also have to push back immediately on some such allegations from the former president, otherwise it could be seen as acquiescing in defamation."
  • But it'll give Trump momentum. Sure, the CNN-Trump relationship will go under the microscope and the verdict will come up, but Politico takes a broader view: "What the prime-time event will lay bare is something far more consequential for the presidential primary: Trump is fast-forwarding toward a broader, general election media strategy, while some of his rivals are stuck in primary mode."
  • Trump's take. He wrote on Truth Social Tuesday, "Could be the beginning of a New & Vibrant CNN, with no more Fake News, or it could turn into a disaster for all, including me. Let’s see what happens?"
(More Donald Trump stories.)

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