Veteran correspondent Christiane Amanpour became the first CNN journalist to publicly criticize her network for airing last week’s town hall with former President Donald Trump.
Amanpour told a group of graduating students at Columbia University’s graduate school of journalism on Wednesday that she would have “dropped the mic at ‘nasty person,’” a reference to when Trump lobbed that insult at moderator Kaitlan Collins.
CNN was criticized for hosting Trump at a live event in New Hampshire, where the 2024 presidential candidate repeated lies about the last election before a mostly adoring audience. CNN Chairman Chris Licht has defended the town hall as newsworthy and important, and Amanpour said she had a “robust discussion” with him about it.
Everyone knows Trump tries to seize the stage and dominate at such events, said Amanpour, the chief international correspondent who has worked at CNN for 40 years.
“No matter how much flak the moderator tries to aim at the incoming, it doesn’t work,” she said.
Perhaps today’s journalism leaders should learn from those in the 1950s, who refused to give Sen. Joseph McCarthy attention “unless his foul lies, his witch hunts and his rants” reached the basic level for evidence allowed in a courtroom, she said.
“Maybe less is more,” she said. “Maybe live is not always right.”
Amanpour criticized the town hall’s audience, chosen by CNN because they were Republicans or independents who plan to vote in the 2024 Republican primary.
Citing the precedents of past candidate debates or forums, CNN should have insisted “that our invited guests behave themselves — no hooting, no hollering, no jeering, no cheering.”
“I can only hope that your trust in us might have been shaken but not shattered, that you believe that we can survive and rebuild that trust,” she said.
A spokesman for Licht did not immediately return messages for comment. In an internal call with CNN staff members last week, Licht noted that people in the town hall audience represented a large swath of America.
“The mistake the media made in the past is ignoring that those people exist,” he said. “Just like you cannot ignore that President Trump exists.”