The intimidating, abusive and misogynistic aspect of the evening was there from the start as Trump talked, mocked and generally treated Collins like…like he treats any woman who dares to talk back to him.
Collins and Trump have a history. As USA today reported in 2018, Collins was dismissed before a White House briefing for asking “inappropriate” questions of Trump. Then she was told she had been “disinvited” from a Rose Garden event that day. That wasn’t the only time Trump or his team went after Collins, and it’s certainly not the only time Trump went after CNN or banned members of the organization from the room. White House press conference.
On Wednesday night, new CNN CEO Chris Licht, who reportedly personally briefed Collins on how to handle Trump during the event, put his reporter in an impossible position. Caught between a loud and dismissive Trump, an audience that cheered every moment of his belligerence, and a format that gave him no way to maintain decorum, Collins might as well have been handed to Trump with a sign that read “Official Sacrifice.”
When Collins attempted to question Trump about the differences between his handling of classified documents and that of President Joe Biden, Trump did what he had done at least a dozen times by then: he interrupted in the middle of the question.
Trump: “Are you ready? Can I talk? Do you mind?”
Collins: “Yeah, I’d like you to answer the question. That’s why I asked it.”
Trump: “It’s very simple that you’re a bad person, I’ll tell you.”
Crowd: (Big cheers, applause, laughter.)
It’s the evening in a few words. By the time things hit Trump, threatening Collins, pointing fingers at her and calling her a “mean person” amid a response that made no sense but drew big applause, any hint there was had something to glean from this event was long, long gone.
It’s not that Collins didn’t ask good questions. She did it. It’s not that she didn’t try to follow up, or that she hesitated in her efforts to verify at least some of Trump’s lies down to the minute. She did those things too. It’s that the format of the event gave Collins no support. For the rowdy crowd, she was the perfect prop – the pretty woman Trump could abuse for their amusement.
On several occasions, Collins appeared to serve as proxy while Trump had the opportunity to defame, belittle, and further belittle writer E. Jean Carroll. As a columnist Ruth Ben Ghiat put it, “CNN became part of Trump’s need to psychologically ‘undo’ his defeat by getting the public to applaud him to be an aggressor. The more authoritarians are approved of, the more they feel encouraged to be even more anarchic. This is why this “town hall” was so dangerous. Others have suggested that Carroll might sue trump again on the ugly and humiliating statements for which CNN provided a platform.
Throughout the evening, there were a few moments of real questions worth repeating, mostly because of Trump’s refusal to answer. Like when Trump dithered into “I don’t remember” territory when asked if he had shown classified documents to others at Mar-a-Lago. Or when Trump refused to say he wanted Ukraine to survive Vladimir Putin’s invasion. But those moments really weren’t worth it. No one needed another rally roadshow/rotten journalist/misogynist to know that Trump is just plain awful. It was clear on entering.
Reviews of CNN’s stunt event are scattered across television and the internet Thursday morning, and they’re uniformly as miserable as they should be.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called CNN’s decision to provide Trump with this prime-time rally “a deeply irresponsible decision” and “shameful.”
Joe Scarborough at MSNBC called the event “just disgraceful on every level”.
podcast host Keith Olberman declared him “the Hindenberg of television news”. He also called for Licht’s dismissal.
But when criticizing CNN’s event, it’s hard to top CNN’s own Jake Tapper.
The lies kept coming fast and furiously about the Jan. 6 insurrection, about Vice President Pence, about Pence’s ability to overturn the election, about COVID, about the economy and more. He called a black law enforcement officer a “thug”. He said people here in Washington DC’s Chinatown don’t speak English. He attacked Kaitlan as a mean woman because she was trying to get him to answer a question.
Perhaps most chillingly, the day after a nine-person jury of his peers in New York found him liable for sexual assault and defamation and ordered him to pay the writer $5 million. E. Jean Carroll, he made fun of his account, his sexual assault, and many viewers laughed.
It’s an accurate summary. It’s too bad that while Tapper was speaking, CNN showed Trump still standing on the stage they provided, accepting a standing ovation from the audience they selected. Collins was nowhere in sight as a smiling Trump continued to point fingers at people in the crowd and joke around with his fans.
It was the writer George Bernard Shaw who said, “Never fight with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it. Trump certainly seemed to be enjoying his evening.
Much like the leadership of the Republican Party in 2016, Licht believed he could roll around in that mud and come out miraculously clean. Or he knew exactly what was going to happen, which is infinitely worse. But then Licht seems to have a fundamental misunderstanding what a news organization does. “Kaitlan pressed it again and again and made the news,” Licht wrote to his team on Thursday morning. “Made A LOT of news. And that’s our job.”
No it is not.
Kaitlan Collins deserves an apology. America too.
The data is there: Americans don’t like Republican policies on abortion. Kerry is joined by Drew Linzer, director and co-founder of renowned polling firm Civiqs. Drew and Kerry dive deep into the polls on abortion and reproductive rights and the big issues facing conservative candidates in the upcoming election.