As I prepared to watch CNN’s town hall featuring Donald Trump, I had mixed feelings. Part of me hoped it would expose his deceitful and corrupt nature, while another part dreaded giving him a platform to spew his toxic views. Now that it’s over, I can confirm it was a complete disgrace.
Instead of holding Trump accountable, the town hall simply normalized his lies and destructive behavior. The pre-show discussion treated his recent conviction for sexual battery and defamation like a minor political issue, which was utterly distasteful.
The town hall itself was held in front of a predominantly pro-Trump crowd, giving him a platform to recycle old and untrue claims. The moderator tried her best to keep him in check but was ultimately overpowered.
During the event, Trump lied about the 2020 election, refused to apologize for endangering Mike Pence’s life, and romanticized the January 6 insurrection. He even had the audacity to call E. Jean Carroll, the woman he was found liable for defaming and sexually assaulting a “wack job” turned her assault into a tasteless joke.
His lies didn’t stop there. Trump pushed for a default on the national debt unless deep budget cuts were secured from Biden, and he falsely claimed that Democrats want late-term abortions. The moderator pushed back occasionally but was generally steamrolled.
What was most disheartening was the lack of real-time fact-checking and reminders that Trump was spewing lies. The network allowed him to defame E. Jean Carroll again and attack the country’s already fragile democratic institutions.
I couldn’t stomach the entire event, but I later learned that Trump even refused to pick a side in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, reminiscent of his “very fine people” comment after the Charlottesville march in 2017.
We already know Trump is a liar, a coup plotter, and a charlatan. He’s been indicted for hush money payments and found liable for sexual assault. Despite all this, CNN chose to normalize him and give him 90 minutes of airtime to peddle his bile. This abysmal event is a new low for television news, and a far cry from the journalistic integrity once displayed by Edward R. Murrow when he took on Senator Joe McCarthy.
The town hall was a missed opportunity to confront Trump and expose him for who he truly is. Instead, it was a disservice to journalism and a blow to our democracy. We must demand better from our media outlets and hold them accountable for the narratives they perpetuate.