Wednesday’s CNN Town Hall wasn’t quite as transformative as Chip Bok (Creators) paints it, but it certainly demonstrated the media shakeup in progress.
But note the “How could you?” look on Fox’s face and the “Dear Lord” look on CNN’s. Rightwingers have been excoriating Fox for its recent failure to promote Dear Leader incessantly, faithfully and at all times, and Fox ratings have dropped significantly since the firing of Tucker Carlson.
Meanwhile, CNN has a new boss and is seeking a new future, and, by the way, the white pantsuit is a nice touch, because Kaitlan Collins is, indeed, stuck in a “Dear Lord” position about now, her appointment to the town hall having been touted as the unveiling of a new prime-time star and having turned out, instead, as a sacrifice tossed into the volcano.
I’m not sure there was a potential win here for CNN, and Bill Bramhall echoes the idea that Collins was a sacrifice in a losing cause.
Still, as Semaphore and others report, CNN’s new CEO, Chris Licht, somehow painted the painful encounter as a positive.
I understand that he could call it a positive, since he wasn’t the one up there being trampled and insulted in front of a jeering, gibbering mob, but my own response is that I wish I’d been watching the version he saw instead of the version the rest of us were watching.
On the town hall I saw, Trump refused to give any answers to his position on the war or on abortion, and repeated his lies about the riots and the election despite Collin’s best efforts to get him to answer her questions or respond to her fact-checking.
The Curate’s Egg is only funny because the poor fellow is outranked by his host and desperate to make a positive impression. Licht may be desperate to make a good impression on the world, but he’s not humble nor should he be.
His defense of the debacle, rather, comes across like Pee Wee Herman defiantly declaring “I meant to do that.”
Which is funny because Pee Wee is neither my boss nor head of a major news network.
All of which makes Matt Davies’ take more accurate: Nobody is blaming Collins for having walked into an unwinnable, indefensible disaster, and it’s not that, as in Bok’s cartoon, they see CNN as purposefully having chosen to be a Trump consort.
Rather, the net effect was that CNN came across as a doormat, having set Trump up for an obvious prime-time triumph in front of a friendly claque who amplified and energized his constant torrent of lies, bravado and bullroar.
How do you deal with someone who blatantly lies in your face? In a live setting, it’s hard, though a panel of interviewers and the ability to time his answers and cut his microphone might have helped.
But even that would draw accusations of bias and manipulation, while taping and fact-checking would do the same.
It’s a no-win proposition.
Though I did have one time, back in 1979, when I was doing a piece on college football and found myself facing a bald-faced liar who truly shocked me both with the lies and with the complete lack of necessity, since it was an innocuous Sunday feature piece for the Denver Post.
My editor wouldn’t let me simply call CU’s athletic director a liar, but we found a work-around:
However, while citing credible sources worked 44 years ago, Wednesday’s town hall proved — if you needed proof — that, today, we not only live in a world of alternative facts but of alternative sources.
And so Chris Licht may be the rooster who claims credit for the sunrise, but his town hall broke no new ground and produced no news.
Juxtaposition of the Day
Not only did Kaitlan Collins repeatedly, futilely demand that Trump stop lying about election fraud, but, just as he declared the election system “rigged,” he also insisted that the jury which declared him responsible for both sexual assault and defamation was “rigged” and that he hadn’t been found to have actually raped Jean Carroll, that last point being technically true but morally meaningless.
Deering gets a chuckle for comparing Trump’s dubious defense with Nixon’s memorable insistence that he was not a crook, and, given that Nixon turned out to actually be a crook, it casts some shade on Trump’s insistence of innocence.
But Deering is letting him off easy.
They play a somewhat rougher game in South Africa where, to express his skepticism, Soobben summons up not Richard Nixon but Stormy Daniels who has described Trump’s penis as oddly shaped and undersized, looking like a mushroom-shaped Mario Kart character known as “Toad.”
Which doesn’t simply undercut the blustering braggart’s manhood but may explain his exoneration on the rape accusation, given that E. Jean Carroll had earlier admitted she couldn’t tell if there had been actual penetration, though she claimed to still have the stained dress that resulted.
Trump honestly has no idea when it’s time to shut up.
Though, as Steve Brodner points out, he hasn’t really encountered a time when he had to shut up, and the town hall was one more example of how difficult it is to deal with a blatant, brazen liar who not only has his own version of reality but manages to convince a substantial number of people to join him in accepting it.
Substantial? CNN got a reported 3.3 million viewers for their show, which is about what Fox used to get for Tucker Carlson on a good night and slightly less than CNN got for a 2020 town hall with Joe Biden.
CNN could have set up a more effective format, though I’m not sure Trump would have agreed to appear in a more controlled situation.
But wotthell, it doesn’t much matter whether Chris Licht did it cynically to help boost CNN’s ratings and status, or simply out of a mistaken idea that the format would work.
It happened. Whatever the plan, however it turned out, it happened.
At least CNN let Anderson Cooper wrap things up the next night, and he’s right: You can’t say you didn’t know, and you also can’t changes things by wishing they were different.