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Trump town hall is a ratings gift for CNN as 3.3 million watch, doubling Fox News audience

By Sarah May
|
May 12, 2023

Though former President Donald Trump has historically been no fan of CNN and its left-leaning ways, he gave its network executives a tremendous gift this week in the form of a massive ratings boost attributable to his Wednesday televised town hall, as the Daily Mail reports.

Trump's presence on CNN's airwaves took the network's ratings to their highest point in years, a fact which may – at least in part – blunt the substantial criticism received from liberals who were outraged by the event.

Trump-Induced Ratings Boom

According to the Mail, the New Hampshire back-and-forth between Trump and CNN personality Kaitlan Collins drew an impressive 3.3 million pairs of eyes.

That result represents a doubling of the numbers pulled by network rivals Fox and MSNBC for the same time slot.

The figure also stood in staggering contrast to the paltry 473,000 viewers CNN averaged each night for the month of March.

Perhaps most pivotal in the minds of network brass is the fact that within the coveted 25-54 demographic, ratings soared to five times their average, reaching 781,000.

Deluge of Criticism

None too pleased with the evening's proceedings was progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), who ripped the network for providing Trump with any sort of forum from which to communicate with the electorate, according to The Hill.

“CNN should be ashamed of themselves,” the congresswoman flatly declared.

Ocasio-Cortez continued, “They have lost total control of this 'town hall' to again be manipulated into platforming election disinformation, defenses of Jan.6, and a public attack on a sexual abuse victim,” an apparent reference to Trump's complaints about the 2020 presidential contest and the recent verdict against him in a civil suit brought by writer E. Jean Carroll.

The far-left lawmaker was equally outraged about the fact that the audience composed of Granite State voters did not seem to share in her disgust, and she lamented, “The audience is cheering him on and laughing at the host.”

Cynical Motivations Alleged

Many of the most vocal critics of CNN's decision to host Trump came from prominent liberals who claimed that the network was driven entirely by the desire for ratings – and, by extension – greater profitability.

Those complaints began to arise well before Trump even hit the stage, as the U.K. Guardian reported soon after the town hall was announced.

Angelo Carusone of progressive group Media Matters for America slammed the programming choice by CNN earlier this month, saying, “The transparent attempt to goose their ratings does feel at least a little odious.”

Outspoken Trump foe and former MSNBC personality Keith Olbermann was even more biting in his reaction, taking aim at CNN's relatively new CEO by stating, “I think we can say Chris Licht's conversion of CNN into a political and journalistic whorehouse is complete.”

Licht Stands Firm

Not surprisingly, particularly given the ratings success of Collins' evening with Trump, Licht maintained in a Thursday morning editorial call that hosting the former president was the right thing to do.

Praising the job done by Collins, Licht said, according to the Mail, “You do not have to like the former president's answers, but you can't say that we didn't get them.”

“While we all may have been uncomfortable hearing people clapping, that was also an important part of the story because the people in that audience represent a large swath of America,” the CEO added.

Undeterred by the naysayers, Licht added, “I absolutely, unequivocally believe America was served very well by what we did last night. Covering Trump is tricky and messy, and it will continue to be messy and tricky, but it's our job.”