CNN is facing widespread pushback after announcing its presidential town hall in New Hampshire next week will feature former President Donald Trump.
The network announced Monday that the event, which will take place May 10 at St. Anselm College in Goffstown, New Hampshire, and moderated by CNN This Morning anchor Kaitlan Collins. Trump will be funneled questions from Republican and undeclared voters who plan to vote in the 2024 GOP primary election, where New Hampshire is set to be one of four early voting states for the Republican National Committee.
According to CNN, this will be the first time Trump has appeared on the network since his 2016 presidential campaign. Trump has enjoyed a favorable lead in many early hypothetical GOP matchups for the 2024 election despite facing a list of legal troubles that has the potential to cloud his reelection bid.
CNN’s announcement sparked criticism on social media, with phrases like “#BoycottCNN” trending over Twitter Monday evening. Several users argued that giving Trump a live platform could be ill-considered given the former president’s history of lying during 2020 election events about issues like mail-in voting and COVID-19.
Political commentator Keith Olbermann described CNN’s decision as “committing journalistic suicide,” arguing that it was “irresponsible” to give Trump a national audience.
“If there was ONE consensus about 2024 it was that ‘covering’ Trump the way they did in 2016 (handing him live blocks of free airtime with no fact-checking possible) was irresponsible,” Olbermann wrote. “And CNN’s doing it.”
Democratic fundraiser Scott Dworkin tweeted that CNN had “learned absolutely nothing” from past election coverage, adding, “No one should watch this trash.”
“This is absolutely ludicrous,” Dworkin said. “There is no reason to give the biggest pathological liar in politics a platform to spread his bull****. Trump doesn’t belong on television. He belongs in prison.”
Former DNC delegate Victor Shi added on his Twitter account that CNN’s town hall would give Trump “a free & national platform to spew lies.”
“They’ve learned absolutely nothing & they’re exactly why our media is failing us & our democracy,” Shi said, referring to CNN.
During the 2020 election, several outlets practiced fact-checking the former president during live events, such as providing context to statements made during presidential debates between Trump and President Joe Biden.
Others, including Newsweek, often provided context to assertions made by both candidates following debates and campaign events.
A spokesperson for CNN told Newsweek Monday evening that the town hall “is part of a longstanding CNN tradition of hosting leading presidential candidates for Town Halls and political events as part of the network’s robust campaign coverage.” Trump’s town hall will also be “the first of many in the 2024 election cycle,” the spokesperson said.
Despite facing criminal charges in New York City in connection to alleged hush money schemes made during his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump has remained a consistent front-runner in preliminary GOP polling since announcing his 2024 election bid.
His popularity, particularly among deep conservatives, could set him up for a rematch against Biden in 2024, who announced his official reelection campaign last week.
If Trump is the GOP nominee, he will likely get several more live coverage opportunities in the next election cycle, and as independent journalist Brian Krassenstein wrote on Twitter, news organizations are tasked “to show Americans both sides of the picture.”
“To attack a news organization for questioning a former president, who wants to be president again, in a town hall setting, is simply insane in my opinion,” Krassenstein said. “Americans are smart enough to listen to his answers and make their own decision. They don’t need news organizations deciding what they should or should not see.”
“Information is never bad,” he continued. “If Trump lies, CNN can call him out. Everything doesn’t have to involve outrage and boycotts.”