Former President Donald Trump returns to CNN for the first since 2016. Trump, who currently is the GOP front-runner presidential candidate, is stepping out of his media bubble just as a federal jury found him guilty of sexually abusing E. Jean Carroll, another criminal indictment and has potentially additional state and federal charges coming his way.
Despite all that, the pressure will not be on him; it will be on CNN during tonight’s town hall, which begins at 8 p.m. ET.
All eyes will be on the network to see how it will handle the former president, who came down hard on CNN while he was president. Trump routinely called out CNN, claiming that the network unfairly treated him, regularly battled with its correspondents, and labeled it as part of the “fake news media.”
How CNN will handle Trump, whose petulance and habit of spouting falsehoods has been well documented, will be a key test for CNN’s chairman and CEO, Chris Licht, and his reimagined vision for the news network.
The network has been busy preparing for the town hall, which will be held at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire and moderated by rising star Kaitlan Collins. According to Politico’s Playbook, Collins has not shown any sign of nervousness as the pressure of the moment gets closer.
Collins understands the weight and responsibilities she will be carrying as the moderator of the town hall. Go easy on Trump, and she and the network will be accused of acquiescing to Trump and the GOP; go hard on him; Trump and his supporters will use the town hall to show that the relationship with the media has not changed and that the vendetta against him is still alive and kicking.
She will, in real-time, have to fact-check the president, make sure audience questions, comprising of New Hampshire Republicans and undeclared voters, are asked, and ask the critical questions that need to be asked.
Politico reports that the network has been using a senior staffer to play the role of Trump during prep sessions and that Collins, who has not been on CNN This Morning since Friday, has been spending hours meeting with producers, Licht, and other top CNN executives at a New Hampshire hotel.
If the town hall succeeds, Licht can use this moment as a reset for CNN and, most importantly, himself as the network’s head honcho.