- Thursday, May 11, 2023

CNN’s town hall Wednesday night with former President Donald Trump offered a lot more than just a glimpse of the campaign he’s going to run in the 2024 Republican primaries. It revealed how desperate many in the corporate media are to limit the information Americans can access. From their howling, it’s obvious how much they want to act as self-appointed censors.

First, it’s important to establish the reality of the situation. Mr. Trump is far and away the leading candidate right now to become the Republican presidential nominee next year. He is the immediate past president of the United States and perhaps the most famous human on the planet. He is, without question, news.

Yet for days beforehand, leftist after leftist railed that CNN had no business putting him on the air at all.

The hysterical ladies of ABC’s “The View” made it clear that they disapproved. Co-host Whoopi Goldberg spoke of Mr. Trump as though he were Lord Voldemort, the chief villain from the “Harry Potter” books who is so awful that people are afraid to speak his name.

“There is a town hall coming up with you-know-who,” Ms. Goldberg said, claiming that she believed that such events should be reserved for introducing brand-new candidates to voters.

Her co-host Sunny Hostin agreed, rattling off a list of things about Mr. Trump that she believed disqualified him from being the subject of television news programming.

“I know everything I need to know about you,” she said. “And so, I don’t think that you give that type of person a platform.”

The Washington Post quoted Norman Ornstein, whom it described as “the eminent political scholar,” as saying disparagingly that the CNN show “legitimizes” Mr. Trump, as though a former president and current 2024 front-runner needs any validation of his news value.

“I wouldn’t normalize him in that way,” added MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan, using a word liberals employ to cast certain conservatives as unwelcome in polite society.

Exiled former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, who was good and funny on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” before he went insane, tweeted that CNN was “committing journalistic suicide.”

Judd Legum, who identifies on Twitter as an “independent accountability journalist,” fumed that the live audience at the town hall would consist solely of Republican voters and independents who lean Republican.

“Allowing Trump to appear in front of an audience exclusively comprised of people who are likely sympathetic to Trump — and then turn over the questions to that group — is irresponsible,” he tweeted, apparently unfamiliar with party primary elections and who votes in them.

But David Zaslav, the CEO of CNN’s new parent company, Warner Bros. Discovery, gave voice to the obvious when he said of Mr. Trump: “He’s the front-runner. He has to be on our network.”

In the show, host Kaitlan Collins did a fine job of conducting the interview the way the CNN bosses probably wanted. She pressed Mr. Trump on issues such as his claims of 2020 election fraud, the various criminal investigations, the recent civil trial verdict on sexual assault, and the assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Yet Mr. Trump looked comfortable and seemed to enjoy the sparring, and in the end, he couldn’t be slowed down.

When the town hall was over, the reaction was predictable.

Rolling Stone had a story describing the reaction from CNN “insiders,” who were “distraught” and called it a “f——— disgrace.”

Jeremy Barr of The Washington Post tweeted that a CNN staffer told him that it was “a disaster, and totally predictable.”

The Daily Beast wailed that “CNN failed America with its train wreck of a Trump town hall.”

Mr. Olbermann, in his typically muted fashion, tweeted that it was “THE HINDENBURG OF TV NEWS.”

MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough whined on Thursday morning that it was “just disgraceful on every level.”

And finally, his MSNBC colleague Mr. Hasan had seen enough.

“Sorry, but — as predicted — this was a clear win for Trump,” he wrote.

It’s striking that critics who argue that CNN should not “platform” Mr. Trump are actually advocating the exact opposite of journalism.

We’ve already established that Mr. Trump is newsworthy. So, ignoring the man would be … what, exactly? Not journalism, that’s for sure.

Instead, what they support is a form of disinformation in itself, because often the most insidious form of media bias is in what journalists do not cover — that is, what information they withhold from the public. It’s this same urge to censor that caused Mr. Trump and many others to be purged from certain social media platforms as well.

And what’s nuts is that the ones advocating the suppression of information also truly believe that they’re the ones upholding journalistic ethics.

And maybe that’s the most ominous thing of all.

• Tim Murtaugh is a Washington Times columnist and vice president for communication strategy at National Public Affairs, a political consulting firm.

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