The outcome of CNN’s effort to pander to the disgraced, twice impeached, indicted, and proven sexual assaulter was all too predictable. Giving him sole access to an hour of primetime in which he could be surrounded by his admirers and mainline his lies directly into the homes of gullible American voters was everything he could have hoped for. After all, it was his celebrity treatment by the media that helped pave his way to the White House in 2016.
Trump’s CNN Town Hall wasn’t journalism. It wasn’t news. It was little more than a misguided attempt to prop up CNN’s ratings and repair its reputation with Trump’s fascist supporters.
Why else would “The most trusted name in news” debase itself in such a manner?
It seems that CNN’s new CEO (and former employee of CBS) has taken heed of a statement made about Trump in 2016 by former CBS Chairman and CEO Les Moonves: “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”
Sure, the CEO could defend his decision by claiming it was the type of Town Hall offered to other leading political candidates. He could dismiss criticism by arguing that CNN was providing a service by reminding viewers of the former president’s prolific ability to lie. But, in reality, CNN merely allowed him to wallow in the adoration of his supporters who were carefully selected to be part of the live audience. It also allowed him to bask in their laughter and applause as he bullied and demeaned the journalist assigned the unsavory task of asking him questions and trying to fact check his tsunami of lies.
The resulting Trump infomercial shows how far “the most trusted name in news” has fallen.
For me, the network’s plunge in credibility is particularly painful. My former ad agency helped promote cable in its infancy by creating the National Cable Consortium. In doing so, we helped CNN and other networks gain footholds in millions of American homes. Wednesday night’s spectacle made me regret those efforts. Of course, there’s little I can do about it now except to personally relegate CNN to a status only marginally higher than that of Fox.
I will eliminate CNN from my viewing habits until they once again earn my trust. I’ve already deleted its website from my bookmarks. And, in order to hold the network accountable, I encourage others to do the same. There are many other media that hold themselves to a higher standard of journalism.
In doing so, I am struck by the fact that CNN first earned its popularity and reputation for its coverage of China’s brutal crackdown of the democracy movement in Tiananmen Square and our first war against Iraq which was fought to stop a brutal dictator. It’s ironic that its coverage of a wannabe US dictator and his attack on our democracy has irreparably damaged that reputation.