Former President Donald Trump, the Republican frontrunner for the 2024 election, made a commanding return to the national spotlight on Wednesday night as he participated in a CNN town hall event to discuss his plans for the future.
The town hall, hosted by CNN anchor Kaitlan Collins, was the first such event featuring Trump since the 2016 campaign and earned CNN a wave of reprisals from left-leaning critics both inside and outside the cable news network.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who has built a 13.4 million user following on Twitter, blasted CNN for “platforming election disinformation, defenses of Jan 6th, and a public attack on a sexual abuse victim.” The congresswoman was referring to writer E. Jean Carroll, who had recently been found liable for sexually abusing and defaming Trump, but not liable for rape.
MSNBC host Joe Scarborough also condemned the town hall, calling it “disgraceful on every level” and noting that the “most shocking” element to him was that the New Hampshire audience cheered on Trump at times.
Even within left-leaning CNN, there was an uproar, with one anonymous on-air personality labeling the town hall an “infomercial” for Trump and predicting the network would “get crushed” when the reviews came out.
Gary Tuchman, a CNN national correspondent, interviewed several audience members after the town hall and found none of their opinions about Trump had changed afterward. One audience member chided CNN for jumping right to questions about the past at the start of the event rather than focusing on current issues.
CNN released a statement after the town hall defending its decision to host Trump and praising Collins for how she conducted herself during the event.
“Tonight Kaitlan Collins exemplified what it means to be a world-class journalist,” the network said.
The event was a stark reminder of why Trump is the GOP frontrunner for 2024, as he skillfully navigated the questions and pushed back on assertions about the Capitol riot and “rigged” election claims.
He displayed the same charisma, energy, and bravado that endeared him to millions of Americans in 2016 and made it clear that he is far from done with politics.
It will be interesting to see how Trump fares in the coming months and years as he continues his pursuit of a 2024 presidential bid, but one thing is for certain — he will remain a force to be reckoned with in the Republican Party.