Kaitlyn Collins Addresses CNN Trump Town Hall, Calling It “Major Inflection Point” In Race For President; Critics Call It Something Else Entirely

For the third time today, a prominent figure at CNN attempted to reframe the network’s roundly-criticized town hall with former president Donald Trump on Wednesday night, an event moderated by Kaitlyn Collins.

Collins anchored CNN’s 9 p.m. hour tonight, opening the show by making the case that the town hall “was a major inflection point in the Republican party’s search for its next nominee and potentially the starting line for America’s next presidential race.” She noted that Trump is the Republican front runner.

“About last night,” Collins began. “The 70 minutes I spent on stage in New Hampshire with former president Donald Trump was a major inflection point in the Republican party’s search for its nominee and potentially the starting line for America’s next presidential race. It’s important to remember that he is, right now, the GOP frontrunner, a race that he is running, as noted, while being criminally indicted, found civilly liable and under investigation for everything from his handling of classified documents to his business empire.”

You can watch Collins’ address below.

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Earlier in the evening, the network’s Anderson Cooper devoted a portion of his primetime program to the backlash against the network.

“You have every right to be outraged and angry and never watch this network again,” Cooper told viewers. “But do you think staying in your silo and only listening to people you agree with is going to make that person go away?”

Cooper’s comments were a defense of the network’s decision to go forward with the town hall, plans that drew criticism for the week leading up to the event as many predicted that Collins would be unable to fully fact-check Trump in real time. While she did try to call out some of his misinformation, Trump mostly steamrolled over Collins’ objections.

This morning, newly-installed CNN Worldwide CEO Chris Licht defended the town hall. On the network’s morning editorial call, Licht said, “I absolutely unequivocally believe America was served very well by what we did last night, because it laid bare and created, in the words of Joe Scarborough, a political earthquake, and that people woke up and they know what the stakes are in this election in a way that they didn’t the day before.” Sahu Newsobtained audio of the call.

Rather than a political earthquake, former CNN correspondent Keith Olbermann saw in the event a different kind of disaster, calling it “the Hindenberg of TV news,” and laying blame not on viewers who may or may not have known who Donald Trump was, but on the network itself.

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Others claimed that the event was, not so much an inflection point for the presidential race, per Collins argument, but rather an inflection point for CNN. MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan live-tweeted the town hall, offering pointed criticism of CNN not just for platforming Trump, but for its approach to challenging him.

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In response to Licht’s comments today, Hasan tweeted, “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.”

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Another critic was U.S. Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who called CNN’s town hall “a disservice to democracy, but also a major harm for women, survivors, & people who rely on repro rights. CNN allowing sexual assault to be treated like a joke to an applauding audience is egregious. At this point it’s not abt Trump- we know him. It’s abt the programming.”

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The town hall had a viewership of 3.3 million, enough for CNN to win the time slot against its rivals and the evening itself. But given the heavy promotion and buzz in the political press, the audience was still below six other similar events on Fox News and behind the audience of a town hall featuring Joe Biden in 2020.

Originally published at deadline.com

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