Crowd cheers E. Jean Carroll offended
Former US President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Thursday, April 27, 2023.
Adam Glanzmann | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Former President Donald Trump on Wednesday again made false claims that his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden was “fixed” when he clashed with a CNN anchor at a live town hall.
Trump also taunted and attacked the woman who accused him of rape in a civil lawsuit, a day after a jury found him guilty of sexual abuse and defamation in that case.
According to CNN, the 70-minute New Hampshire event was Trump’s first appearance on the network since the 2016 presidential campaign. It was hosted by CNN This Morning host Kaitlan Collins, who attempted to vet Trump in real-time. There was a live audience of Republicans and black voters.
Much of the crowd was extremely supportive of Trump, often applauding and laughing in support of his statements.
Trump, who for years has falsely claimed he beat Biden in 2020, told Collins that “unless you’re a very stupid person, you see what happened” in this contest. When asked if he would publicly admit his loss, Trump referred to claims by a group promoting election conspiracy theories.
Trump also defended his supporters, who stormed the US Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 when asked if he regretted his actions that day. Trump said the people who came to hear him speak near the Capitol — some of whom would then storm the Capitol and disrupt Trump’s transfer of power to Biden — were “there with love in their hearts.”
“It was a beautiful day,” Trump said, adding that former Speaker of the Democratic House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi was responsible for the riot.
He also said he would likely pardon “a lot of them” if he regained the White House in 2024.
Trump also praised Ashli Babbitt, one of his supporters, who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6. Capitol Police Lieutenant Michael Byrd shot and killed Babbitt as she and a group of Trump supporters attempted to break down a door. Trump referred to Byrd, a black man, as a “thug” on Wednesday.
When an undeclared voter asked him about the country’s debt and the ongoing dispute in Congress over the debt ceiling, Trump said the US should default unless Democrats agree to major spending cuts.
“Well, you might as well do it now because you’ll do it later. Because we have to save this country,” Trump said when pushing for his views on a sovereign debt default.
Collins has repeatedly pushed Trump on the issue of abortion, which is likely to be a big issue in the 2024 cycle. Trump, who has been more opaque than some of his Republican competitors, has repeatedly refused to give a straight answer on whether he would sign a federal abortion ban if re-elected.
“I would negotiate so people would be happy,” he once said, citing his conservative Supreme Court nominees who were instrumental in last year’s decision to quash Roe vs. Wade. As the host continued to press for clarity, he said: “I’m looking for a solution that will work.”
The conversation also turned to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Trump dodged the question of whether he wanted Ukraine to win, but said he thought Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s invasion was “a huge mistake.”
City Hall at times sounded more like a debate, with Collins frequently interjecting to refute Trump’s claims and the ex-president responding aggressively. “You’re a bad person,” Trump once told Collins when she asked him why he took classified documents to his home in Mar-a-Lago after leaving the presidency.
Some journalists and media critics were quick to wave at City Hall, while notably praising Collins’ efforts. Others defended the event. “Collins was a true pro and showed what an outstanding journalist she is,” tweeted Peter Baker, reporter for the New York Times.
Since becoming angered at CNN years ago, Trump has railed against the network, its ratings, its leadership and many of its on-air personalities.
But after a leadership change at CNN and amid a reported slump in ratings, the network has apparently decided to give Trump another chance.
“He’s the Republican front runner. He has to be there,” David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, which owns CNN, said of Trump on CNBC’s Squawk Box last week. The town hall was also seen as a test of CNN boss Chris Licht’s rule against spreading disinformation.
The decision raised concerns from Trump’s critics, who argue that providing the ex-president with a live platform to spread misinformation neglects the lessons the media learned during his presidency. Some of them have also accused Licht of trying to attract a more centrist audience as part of his channel overhaul.
E. Jean Carroll exits federal courthouse in Manhattan following the verdict in the civil rape trial of former U.S. President Donald Trump May 9, 2023 in New York City.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters
The timing has only exacerbated the controversy. City Hall comes a day after a New York City jury found Trump liable for sex abuse and defamation in a civil lawsuit brought by writer E. Jean Carroll.
The jury ordered Trump to pay Carroll compensatory and punitive damages of $5 million.
It’s far from clear whether the outcome of this trial, which Trump denounced in a series of social media posts Tuesday night and which his attorney planned to appeal, will affect his bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024 .
During City Hall, Trump repeatedly poked fun at Carroll, prompting cheers and laughter from the crowd.
Trump, who lost his re-election to Biden in 2020, still appears to be the de facto leader of the Republican Party. Even his supposed main competitors reacted cautiously to the devastating verdict of the jury.
Trump appeared to chide CNN outside City Hall, hinting in a social media post that the network booked him “because they’re rightfully desperate to get those fantastic (TRUMP!) ratings again.”
“Could be the start of a new and vibrant CNN, with no more fake news, or it could be a disaster for everyone, including me. Let’s see what happens?” Trump wrote.