Michael Fanone condemns CNN’s town hall ‘party’ for Trump as backlash rises
Michael Fanone, one of the police officers assaulted during the Capitol riot, has slammed CNN for hosting a town hall event featuring Donald Trump — the man he says "tried to get me killed."
The retired DC Metropolitan Police officer and now regular CNN contributor penned an essay in Rolling Stone explaining the "sucker punch" he felt when the network announced that the former president would be included in a special town hall event, comparing it to a “rehabilitation party.”
Though he recognises that Mr Trump is the likely Republican frontrunner ahead of the 2024 election and admits that he is far from the only politician who has lied to the American public, Mr Fanone still believes the former president is uniquely unworthy of a national platform.
"I’ll tell you why this is different," Mr Fanone writes. "Those lies convinced thousands of his supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, violently attacking uniformed police officers and terrorizing members of Congress and their staff. I witnessed this assault firsthand as an officer with the Metropolitan Police Department, who like hundreds of MPD officers, responded to the U.S. Capitol Police Department’s calls for assistance after their officers were overrun by Trump’s mob. As a result of my efforts that day I was severely beaten, struck numerous times with a taser, and suffered a heart attack as well as a traumatic brain injury. One police officer died, and several others took their own lives in the wake of that barbaric day."
He argues that putting Mr Trump "like a normal candidate who didn’t get people killed in the process of trying to end the democracy he’s attempting to once again run," would only serve to normalize his actions today and for future candidates.
Warner Bros Discovery CEO David Zaslav defended CNN — which Warner owns — and its decision to host the townhall after its announcement spurred public backlash.
“The US has a divided government. We need to hear both voices,” Zaslav told CNBC’s Squawk Box. “Republicans are on the air on CNN, Democrats are on the air… When we do politics, we need to represent both sides. I think it’s important for America.”
He said he was happy Mr Trump — the “front-runner” — was going to appear on the network.
Fanone and others — including the House Select Committee investigating the Capitol riot — have argued that Mr Trump is directly responsible for the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. Mr Trump has denied being at fault for his loyalists beating police officers and breaking the building.
Even convicted rioters — including the former head of the Proud Boys, who was recently convicted on seditious conspiracy charges — blamed Mr Trump for the violence on 6 January.
Though Mr Trump is doing little to assist the incarcerated rioters now, he has assured his supporters he will help them — if he gets elected.
"Since his announcement that he was seeking the presidency for a third time, he has offered to pardon his insurrectionist supporters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, calling them 'Patriots' and 'Great Americans,'" Mr Fanone wrote. "He has even incorporated recordings of the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ and ‘Justice for All’ as sung by the J6 Prison Choir, a group of inmates imprisoned for their roles in the violent insurrection, into his rallies — giving these violent criminals a place of prominence in his campaign."
Mr Fanone then shifted attention to CNN, expressing some scepticism of the ethos coming from the company's new C-suite occupants.
"In the past, CNN has recognized the dangers of allowing election deniers a public platform and would not allow them on-air. Under new 'leadership,' that policy has been discarded as evidenced by CNN’s decision to allow the chief election denier, former President Donald J. Trump, a prominent time slot in its evening lineup," Mr Fanone wrote.
The retired officer is likely referencing internal shakeups at CNN under the reigns of its new CEO, Chris Licht, who replaced Jeff Zucker. Mr Zucker sat at the network's helm during Mr Trump's presidency, when the commander-in-chief named CNN as his primary antagonist and journalists "enemies of the people."
Mr Fanone continued, saying the quiet part about the media business — keyword "business" — out loud.
"I’ve heard the network’s attempts to justify this clear reversal. The ‘He’s the frontrunner in the Republican primary’ argument. Somehow the network’s ‘ethical’ responsibility changed from preventing election deniers a platform regardless of the topic, to giving those same individuals a huge platform to disseminate their lies. I don’t believe for one second that this is about journalistic integrity," he wrote. "It’s about ratings and money."