CNN CEO Chris Licht “unequivocally” believes that America was served well by Donald Trump‘s town hall on Wednesday, as he defended his decision to showcase Trump while on a call to CNN staff Thursday morning.
“I absolutely unequivocally believe America was served very well by what we did last night,” Licht said on the call, per Semafor media reporter Max Tani.
Licht also said that he was “aware” that there have been “opinions and backlash” to the event but “there is so much that we learned last night of what another Trump presidency looked like.”
“While we all may have been uncomfortable hearing people clapping, that was also an important part of the story because the people in that audience represent a large swath of America,” Licht said on the call. The CEO also said that the “mistake” media made in the past was “ignoring that those people exist just like you cannot ignore that President Trump exists.”
On a call this morning with CNN staff, network CEO Chris Licht says he is “aware that there has been people with opinions and backlash,” but that "there is so much that we learned last night of what another Trump presidency looked like.”
— Max Tani (@maxwelltani) May 11, 2023
Former chief media correspondent for CNN Brian Stelter also tweeted about the 9 a.m. call. In a Twitter thread that has over 1 million views and thousands of comments, Stelter said that Licht addressed the town hall controversy. “You do not have to like the former president’s answers, but you can’t say that we didn’t get them,” Licht told his staffers.
The CNN head dubbed covering Trump “tricky and messy” and noted that it would “continue to be messy and tricky, but it’s our job.” “”America was served very well by what we did last night,” Licht said. According to Stelter, many CNN employees strongly disagreed with Licht’s comments.
Licht also praised Kaitlan Collins for a “masterful performance” and said that he “couldn’t be more proud of her.” “Kaitlan pressed him again and again and made news,” Licht said before adding that making a lot of news was the network’s “job.”
Chris Licht begins CNN's 9am editorial call by praising @kaitlancollins for a "masterful performance last night." He says "I couldn't be more proud of her" and the whole team in NH. Then he says he's aware of the backlash… More to come
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) May 11, 2023
CNN did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.
On Wednesday, former president Donald Trump took the stage at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire for CNN’s first town hall of the 2024 election. Moderated by CNN Anchor Kaitlan Collins, the town hall has been criticized since it was first announced as a transparent ratings grab.
The live event proved to be as controversial as expected. As Collins struggled to fact-check the former president, Trump defended his infamous “Access Hollywood” tape, lied about the 2020 election being “rigged” and called the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol “a beautiful day.”
But perhaps the most shocking part of the town hall had to do with E. Jean Carroll, the journalist who was recently awarded $5 million in damages after a court found Trump liable for defamation and sexual abuse. When asked about Carroll, Trump said, “I don’t know her. I never met her. I had no idea who she is.” He then recited Carroll’s claims in a mocking voice, which drew laughter and applause from the audience. When Carroll tried to get Trump back on track, he steamrolled her and called Carroll a “wack job.”