Trump forum is a big test for CNN, moderator Kaitlan Collins

NEW YORK (AP) – Donald Trump City Council Forum on CNN Wednesday is the first big TV event of the 2024 presidential campaign — and a massive test for the select coordinator, Caitlan Collins.

Both sides of the political divide expressed their skepticism when the CNN forum at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire was announced last week. Some Democrats question whether the former president should be given air time, while Republicans question whether the network Trump has long disparaged can do justice.

Once she begins, Collins should give audience members the opportunity to ask questions while deciding when to intervene on her own. You will weigh how to correct misinformation in a potentially hostile environment: The invited participants are those who expect to vote in the Republican primary.

“It’s a balance beam and can be walked on,” said Frank Sesno, former CNN Washington bureau chief now at George Washington University. “We’ll see if Caitlan deserves the Olympics.”

CNN will not make Collins available to speak ahead of the event, which is scheduled for 8 p.m. on Wednesday.

Speaking of Collins’ stature, she’s been given the job in a network that has no shortage of experienced political journalists—Dana Bash, Anderson Cooper, Jake Tapper, Chris Wallace. She worked at The Daily Caller, the conservative website launched by Tucker Carlson, before turning occasional guest appearances on CNN into a full-time job in 2017.

She covered the White House on Trump and became CNN’s White House Correspondent in 2021. She moved to New York late last year to co-host “CNN This Morning.” For the 31-year-old Collins, who is now in the mix for a role on CNN’s prime time lineup, Wednesday’s event could also be a significant test.

“She achieved such a huge rise at such a young age because of her talent,” said Maggie Haberman, New York Times reporter and author of Trump biographer The Confidence Man. “She was a wonderful White House correspondent, always calm under pressure, but also incredibly fair and focused on the facts.”

Collins has had her confrontations with the Trump White House. She was banned from attending the Rose Garden event In 2018 when Trump’s team got upset about asking questions in the Oval Office earlier in the day.

I checked the facts on the spot as a morning anchor. “It’s not true, Senator,” she told Republican Sen. Rick Scott recently when he made an allegation about President Joe Biden’s spending and Medicare on “CNN This Morning.”

Alyssa Farrah Griffin, who was a member of Trump’s communications team and is now a panel member on “The View,” tweeted after announcing the forum that Collins “is one of the toughest interviews out there. Anyone thinking Trump will get away with lying without getting called out.” To watch her previous interviews. Frankly surprised by the approval.”

Remarkably, this is Trump’s first appearance in an interview with CNN since before he was elected president in 2016. Since announcing his 2024 candidacyGenerally, he limited himself to television interviews with media outlets that appealed to conservatives.

During his presidency, Trump has consistently attacked CNN as “fake news”. CNN’s reputation among Republicans declined, and although the network’s new management sought to live in the middle ground Politically, it is an uphill battle among his supporters.

“It’s clear to everyone with half a brain that Trump won’t get a fair shake from CNN,” columnist Paula Boneyard wrote in conservative PJ Media. “Why does he continue to prostrate himself before these disingenuous left-wing media hackers?”

The Trump adviser, who was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the CNN executives made a compelling pitch to the former president. The adviser also noted that Trump achieved success in 2016 by stepping outside the traditional Republican comfort zone.

Meanwhile, many of Trump’s opponents believe the man continued to spread lies about fraud during his 2020 election loss. For Biden, he doesn’t deserve a primetime show.

There is also deep skepticism dating back to CNN’s frequent coverage of Trump’s rallies before the 2016 election, which gave the network a ratings boost and hefty airtime for the first-time candidate.

“I find it very difficult to argue for the option to give him a live platform, no matter what it looks like,” MSNBC’s Chris Hayes said on his show, which will compete directly with Trump on Wednesday.

CNN said the forum is part of the network’s longstanding tradition of hosting candidate interviews and events. The network said that given Trump’s position in opinion polls with Republican voters, his candidacy cannot be ignored.

It’s also a reflection of the network’s new era of leadership and management’s efforts to rebuild trust as a nonpartisan news brand. To that end, current CNN President and CEO Chris Licht has made it a goal to expand the network’s reach and ease some of the tension with Republicans, including by meeting with lawmakers from both parties on Capitol Hill.

Collins was chosen as a moderator partly because she is a rising star and partly because of her first-hand experience covering Trump. She’ll be on stage on Wednesday with a team of producers and fact-checkers giving her advice through an earphone.

Sesno said CNN should make it clear in its pre-roll that it’s a no-holds-barred event where any question can be asked of the former president. The ad that Grid was playing was a live preview.

“I simply can’t imagine Republicans from CNN or New Hampshire would give him a free pass,” Sesno said. “But if they do, shame on them.”

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Associated Press writer Michelle L. Price from New York.

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