CNN defends debate moderators amid Trump camp criticism

CNN is defending two of its top anchors, both of whom are slated to moderate Thursday’s first general election presidential debate, in the wake of accusations of bias coming from former President Trump’s campaign and its surrogates.

Igniting the fervor Monday was a testy interview between CNN morning show host Kasie Hunt and Trump campaign spokesperson Karoline Leavitt, who attacked moderator Jake Tapper.

Leavitt knocked CNN for selecting “debate moderators who have made their opinions about him very well known over the past eight years and their biased coverage of him,” leading Hunt to cut off the interview abruptly.

After a flurry of criticism from Trump’s allies on social media over the incident, CNN issued a statement defending Tapper and co-moderator Dana Bash on Monday afternoon.

“Jake Tapper and Dana Bash are well respected veteran journalists who have covered politics for more than five decades combined,” the network said. “They have extensive experience moderating major political debates, including CNN’s Republican Presidential Primary Debate this cycle. There are no two people better equipped to co-moderate a substantial and fact-based discussion and we look forward to the debate on June 27 in Atlanta.”

Trump has for years accused CNN of bias against him, regularly referring to the outlet and the mainstream media more broadly as “fake news,” while this week some of his supporters and media boosters have suggested the debate will be “rigged” against him.

The former president participated in a contentious town hall hosted by the network last summer, during which he floated unproven theories about the integrity of 2020 election and repeatedly attacked moderator Kaitlan Collins.

Thursday night’s debate will be a major test for CNN, which has suffered sluggish ratings in recent months and is attempting to move on from internal drama over changes in executive leadership and editorial strategy over the past two years.

Thursday night’s debate will be the first of two scheduled so far this year, with a second slated for September to be hosted by and aired on ABC.

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