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OPINION

The Most Revealing Moment on CNN Last Night Came After Trump’s Town Hall

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Ron Harris

The end result of Donald Trump appearing on CNN for the first town hall of the upcoming presidential campaign was not overly significant. It was interesting if only to reveal how empty the past year of censorship has been; it is odd the man we were told needed to be de-platformed for being a threat to everything from our democracy to our very safety was granted a prime-time forum on CNN. I guess Trump will no longer render the country, is the message to absorb here?

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The event, moderated by Kaitlan Collins, ended with those opposing Trump being given plenty of red meat to continue gnawing away while fans of the former president had their passel of talking points to bolster their position. As for anyone being swayed to either side, that seems dubious.

One way to get a sense of the result is by looking at CNN itself. New CEO Chris Licht had a morning conference call, and he raved about the performance of Collins, calling it “a masterful performance.” Yet, there are signs her performance may not exactly be hung up in a museum anytime soon. As he effusively praised the show, Licht makes this revealing declaration.

Bypassing that nothing truly landmark came out of this performance, there is one indication that things may not have been going so well for the network. A few observers noted the truncated run time of this event. Originally scheduled to be a 90-minute presentation, it seems that they cut things short by about 20 minutes. It cannot be said this was done due to dismal ratings because the balance of the night was spent with panels discussing the town hall. The sensible reason would be the network cutting its losses as far as giving Trump too much positive traction.

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This becomes revealed in one of the segments that ran following the event. CNN gathered together a focus group of audience members comprised of Republican and independent voters. Gary Tuchman presided over this group, and he came at them with a series of loaded questions, clearly focusing on the negative aspects of Trump’s responses from the night. There was no mention of the topics he looked good addressing – from guns and abortion to the economy – and instead, it was a series of queries on the controversial aspects.

Turning to one Trump voter, Tuchman asked him to respond about Trump’s lies and why he was still invoking the past election. “Does it bother you that he keeps talking about 2020 and not 2024?” The response was on point and pointed out the flaws of the network.

Summed up. Tuchman, visibly, was caught off guard by this. Not because it was a “gotcha” moment but because it is something that is so self-evident, and yet the likes of Tuchman and others cannot see it. Why did Trump talk about the 2020 election? Because you brought it up! Tuchman is left stammering for a moment because he had to find a way to justify the paradox he created. See, it is acceptable for them to focus on 2020 and/or January 6, but the moment they are met with engagement on the matter, it becomes problematic.

That reveals the very problem with CNN specifically and the news complex in general. These journalists want – they need – certain topics to remain relevant so that they can continue to churn them up as relevant while at the same time wanting to impugn Trump, and others, who dare challenge them in the conversations that they began.

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They used to complain about Trump tweeting while detailing every time he would post a tweet. They called January 6 dangerous, yet could not stop discussing it for years. They reported incessantly about the January 6 committee until Tucker Carlson got security footage. Now, we see them saying Trump is hung up on the 2020 election as they introduce it as a topic. 

It boils down to it being perfectly acceptable for the press to obsess over these issues in an accusatory fashion, but the moment those on the right challenge them and bring facts, then the discussion is deemed off-limits. As usual, they want the narrative on a leash and guide it only into approved arenas.

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