OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
During his feisty town hall event last week that was moderated by CNN host Kaitlin Collins, former President Donald Trump appeared to get bolder with her as the evening progressed. And the reason for that has been revealed.
According to Axios, during the first commercial break, Trump adviser Jason Miller showed the former president tweets backstage from Democrats who were ripping CNN for hosting Trump and claimed that he was winning.
“Why it matters: Trump, who had been getting miffed at Collins’ persistent questioning, went out all pumped up for the second block,” the outlet reported.
A Trump confidant told Axios: “He was the leader of the free world again.”
The outlet continued:
Trump craves approbation to the point that some aides used to carry around positive polls about him so they could whip them out to show him as a little treat if he started getting grumpy.
Among the tweets, Trump was shown was one by Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who posted 23 minutes into the town hall (before the first commercial break at about 8:40 p.m. ET).
“CNN should be ashamed of themselves. They have lost total control of this ‘town hall’ to again be manipulated into platforming election disinformation, defenses of Jan 6th, and a public attack on a sexual abuse victim,” she tweeted, adding: “The audience is cheering him on and laughing at the host.”
CNN should be ashamed of themselves.
They have lost total control of this “town hall” to again be manipulated into platforming election disinformation, defenses of Jan 6th, and a public attack on a sexual abuse victim.
The audience is cheering him on and laughing at the host.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 11, 2023
Axios said that Trump was also shown a tweet from 2020 Democratic presidential contender Andrew Yang, which said, “This #CNNTownhall is shaping up to be a clear win for Trump, certainly in the Republican field and probably overall.”
And the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, staffed by disaffected former Republicans, added: “Call this town hall what it is: a CNN-sponsored Trump 2024 fundraiser. Disgraceful.”
CNN: Can you say if you want Ukraine or Russia to win this war?
POTUS Trump: I want everybody to stop dying. They’re dying. Russians and Ukrainians. I want them to stop dying.
POTUS Trump is the president of PEACE. Peace in Europe, the Middle East, & around the globe.🕊️🌎 pic.twitter.com/ZHqJp5SZJL
— Byron Donalds (@ByronDonalds) May 12, 2023
Anderson Cooper has on-air meltdown on the verge of tears telling viewers not to watch CNN after Trump goes BEAST MODE during townhall:
“You have every right to be outraged today and angry and never watch this network again.”
— Benny Johnson (@bennyjohnson) May 12, 2023
Trump Triggers the Left after CNN Town Hall. @RealDeanCain with Seb Gorka on NEWSMAX pic.twitter.com/9kFVAR5lJW
— Sebastian Gorka DrG (@SebGorka) May 13, 2023
Those responses and others led Trump’s advisers to tell him to keep up what he was doing — so he did.
Many other liberals sounded off on CNN for hosting Trump for the town hall ahead of the 2024 presidential election and spent most of the night raging and complaining.
That included some from the network itself. In fact, CNN media reporter Oliver Darcy was scolded by his boss Chris Licht for the appearance of public criticism over the decision to give Trump the air time, which, by any measure, was a ratings smash for CNN, whose programs usually draw far fewer viewers than rivals Fox News and MSNBC.
“Fox News Digital confirmed that Darcy was summoned for a meeting with Licht and other top CNN executives, who took exception to the overzealous framing of the fallout the network has received, particularly from liberals,” Fox reported after “Darcy appeared to join the choir of CNN criticism in his ‘Reliable Sources’ newsletter Wednesday night after the town hall.”
In a statement, a CNN spokesperson told Mediaite: “Tonight, Kaitlan Collins exemplified what it means to be a world-class journalist. She asked tough, fair, and revealing questions. And she followed up and fact-checked President Trump in real time to arm voters with crucial information about his positions as he enters the 2024 election as the Republican frontrunner. That is CNN’s role and responsibility: to get answers and hold the powerful to account.”
In the end, the town hall event appeared to be a winner for Collins. In its wake, Licht prepared to announce that she will take over the network’s 9 PM ET primetime slot, which was previously occupied by Chris Cuomo before he was fired.
“CNN, which has endured some of the worst ratings in its history under Zaz’s hand-picked C.E.O., Chris Licht, is now poised for a brief taste of the same power and influence that it enjoyed in the old days. And it will achieve that massive audience, of course, via the very same mechanism that fueled the Zucker years: Donald Trump,” Puck News reported.