CNN's own media reporter trashes network for airing Trump's "spectacle of lies"

"It is awful. It's a Trump infomercial. We're going to get crushed," a CNN insider told The Daily Beast

By Tatyana Tandanpolie

Staff Writer

Published May 11, 2023 11:26AM (EDT)

U.S. President Donald Trump debates Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden at Belmont University on October 22, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee. This is the last debate between the two candidates before the November 3 election. (Jim Bourg-Pool/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump debates Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden at Belmont University on October 22, 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee. This is the last debate between the two candidates before the November 3 election. (Jim Bourg-Pool/Getty Images)

CNN's own media reporter joined in the criticism of his network for airing former President Donald Trump's litany of lies during a town hall event Wednesday night.

During the 70-minute event, the GOP frontrunner parroted lies, wild promises and crude remarks to the audience made up largely of his supporters, as evidenced by their rousing applauses and laughter.

Trump doubled down on 2020 election lies, promised to pardon "many" rioters involved in the Jan. 6 insurrection if elected president in 2024, claimed to have stopped people from "killing babies" through last year's Dobbs decision and mocked columnist E. Jean Carroll, who was awarded $5 million in damages on Tuesday after Trump was found liable for sexually abusing and defaming her. 

CNN's media reporter Oliver Darcy trashed the town hall in his newsletter on Wednesday night, criticizing Trump for "[unleashing] a firehose of disinformation" and speaking over moderator Kaitlan Collins throughout the event, and admonishing the network for airing it.

"It's hard to see how America was served by the spectacle of lies that aired on CNN Wednesday evening," Darcy wrote.

Justin Baragona, a senior media reporter for The Daily Beast, described the reaction an unnamed, on-air CNN personality shared with him immediately following the event. 

"It is so bad," the person reportedly said. "I was cautiously optimistic despite the criticism. It is awful. It's a Trump infomercial. We're going to get crushed."

Other news hosts and writers chimed in online and in op-eds later Wednesday night, reacting to the former president's "unhinged" remarks and further rebuking CNN for allowing Trump to take the stage and do so in an audience of his supporters, including television news vet Mark Lukasiewicz, who called the event "disastrous."

"The predictably disastrous @cnn town hall was indeed disastrous," he said. "Proving again: Live lying works. A friendly MAGA crowd consistently laughs, claps at Trump's punch lines - including re sex assault and Jan 6 - and the moderator cannot begin to keep up with the AR-15 pace of lies."

James Fallows, a former national correspondent for The Atlantic, called out the town hall as the news network's "lowest moment."

"This is CNN's lowest moment as an organization. (And I remember the glory days of their "balanced" panels back in 2015-2016.)," he said.

MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan reamed CNN for again platforming Trump after its former CEO called their airing of his rallies in 2016 a "mistake" and, while defending Collins response to the barrage of lies, also criticized her inability to fact-check some of Trump's racier statements.

"Sorry, but — as predicted — this was a clear win for Trump," he wrote in an op-ed. "He felt no pressure and conceded nothing. He was welcomed onto CNN to address an audience of non-Republicans watching at home and an audience of loyal Republicans sitting in that hall in New Hampshire. Win-win."

"So what did CNN or Collins think would happen? Did they really have no plan to deal with Trump's belligerent nonsense? Did they really learn nothing and forget nothing?" Hasan added, referencing a quote from 19th-century French diplomat Talleyrand that he used to open the article.

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Writer Wajahat Ali echoed Hasan's sentiments in an opinion piece of his own for The Daily Beast. The New York Times contributor said that CNN "failed journalism, the American public, and its own employees by deciding to invite an arsonist who has spent the past seven years trying to burn down their house."

"Congratulations, Licht and Zaslav," he said, referring to CNN's current CEO Chris Licht and Warner Bros CEO David Zaslav, who reportedly defended the town hall last week. "Bravo! What a wonderful precedent to set for your employees, especially the women who work at the "new CNN."

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., also slammed CNN for holding the town hall on Wednesday night, saying that the network "should be ashamed" following the event.

"CNN should be ashamed of themselves," she tweeted. "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 audience is cheering him on and laughing at the host."

"This falls squarely on CNN. 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," she added in a second tweet.

In an MSNBC appearance that night, Ocasio-Cortez reiterated her contempt for the network's "shameful" and "extremely irresponsible" decisions and explained that Trump's attacks on Carroll were "a continued demonstration" of the sacrifices survivors of sexual abuse make when they "come forward and challenge power."

"What we also saw tonight was the consequence of doing that," Ocasio-Cortez said. "They sacrifice their anonymity, they sacrifice their safety, and they sacrifice all of this because we continue to live in a society where an overwhelming amount of structures allow this abuse to happen and find it permissible."

"I think it was a profoundly irresponsible decision," she added, referring to the town hall. "I don't think that I would be doing my job if I did not say that."

By Tatyana Tandanpolie

Tatyana Tandanpolie is a staff writer at Salon. Born and raised in central Ohio, she moved to New York City in 2018 to pursue degrees in Journalism and Africana Studies at New York University. She is currently based in her home state and has previously written for local Columbus publications, including Columbus Monthly, CityScene Magazine and The Columbus Dispatch.

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