Well, here’s something we didn’t see coming: Former President Donald Trump and CNN are making nice.
At least for one night.
America’s 45th president is scheduled to participate in a CNN presidential town hall next Wednesday in New Hampshire, the network announced Monday.
Trump will take questions from New Hampshire Republicans and undeclared voters who plan to vote in the 2024 Republican presidential primary. CNN This Morning co-anchor Kaitlan Collins will moderate the May 10 event at St. Anselm College.
His imminent appearance on CNN is surprising. The ex-president and his allies have called CNN every derogatory name under the sun, both in public and on social media, over the past eight years.
And CNN has fired back in a variety of ways, one example being its 2018 Facts First campaign, a not so subtle shot at the administration.
There was the longstanding public feud with then-CNN Chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta; Trump’s arguments with then-White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins (who just so happens to be hosting this event) and the press office’s decision to ban her from attending a public event.
Additionally, CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr was informed by the Biden Justice Department in 2021 that federal prosecutors in the Trump administration secretly sought and obtained her phone and email records covering two months, between June 1, 2017 to July 31, 2017.
Trump also filed a $475 million defamation lawsuit against the network in Florida federal court last October, accusing the network has long referred to as “fake news,” of engaging in a campaign of libel and slander against him because the network “feared he would run for re-election in 2024.” Trump is indeed running for re-election and it’s not clear if that lawsuit went anywhere.
Then, there was Trump’s personal feud with former CNN boss Jeff Zucker.
So, how did this reunion come to be?
An unnamed Trump adviser tells CNN’s Oliver Darcy, “Going outside the traditional Republican ‘comfort zone’ was a key to President Trump’s success in 2016. Some other candidates are too afraid to take this step in their quest to defeat Joe Biden, and are afraid to do anything other than Fox News.
CNN executives made a compelling pitch.”
Politico added, “A person familiar with the discussions said CNN approached the Trump campaign several months ago, and talks between the two sides continued on until Monday, when the plans were locked down.”
Ever since the Warner Bros. Discovery merger went through and leadership installed Chris Licht as CEO last spring, the network has made more of an effort to be a bipartisan place, hosting Republicans more consistently (with mixed results so far). Jake Tapper and Dana Bash are known to host Republican lawmakers on the network’s Sunday show, State of the Union. We’re also seeing more Republicans on Tapper’s late-afternoon show The Lead and participating in the network’s primetime town halls, which Tapper often hosts.
But Trump becomes by far the most high-profile Republican to appear on the network since appearing during his first run for president back in 2016. We’ll see if his appearance influences more Republican politicians and 2024 presidential candidates to follow suit and accept the network’s invites on a more frequent basis. We’re a bit skeptical, but you never know.
“CNN has a longstanding tradition of hosting leading presidential candidates for Town Halls and political events as a critical component of the network’s robust campaign coverage,” the company said in its announcement. “This event with former President Trump will be the first of many for CNN in the coming months as CNN correspondents travel across the country to hear directly from voters in the runup to the 2024 presidential election.”