Donald Trump returned to CNN Wednesday for the first time in more than five years for a town hall in New Hampshire.
Donald Trump: What a Mess
Despite some pushback from interviewer Kaitlan Collins, Trump delivered so many falsehoods that the network had to fact-check him after the fact.
On Wednesday night, former President Donald Trump appeared on CNN for the first time in many years, as part of a town hall in New Hampshire with Republican and independent voters. The format entailed Trump being interviewed by CNN host Kaitlan Collins while taking questions from the audience.
The decision to host Trump was controversial, even within CNN, as the network was accused by many Trump opponents of failing to “learn the lessons” of the former president’s initial rise.
Collins pushed back against many nonfactual assertions made by Trump during the town hall, about the 2020 election, his use of classified documents, and January 6. But the town hall gave Trump numerous opportunities to deliver his usual lines, to the applause of a friendly audience.
CNN went on to publish a fact check, of the town hall that aired on CNN.
Trump claimed that the 2020 election was “rigged,” while CNN retorted that “This is Trump’s regular lie. He lost the 2020 election to Biden fair and square, 306 to 232 in the Electoral College. Biden earned more than 7 million more votes than Trump did. Trump’s own campaign and senior officials in his administration found no evidence for his claims of widespread fraud.”
The fact checkers also criticized Trump for stating that the letter by former intelligence officers about the Hunter Biden laptop was something that “made a 16-point difference” in the election.
“No proof of Russian involvement in the release of those emails has emerged, and Republicans have argued that the letter helped discredit negative stories about the Biden family just before the election. But there’s also no proof that the letter swayed the outcome of the election,” CNN said.
On Trump’s attempts to overturn the election result in Georgia — for which he may soon face criminal charges — he said in the town hall that “I didn’t ask them to find anything.”
As the call is on tape, CNN describes this as “a brazenly false claim.”
“CNN and other organizations obtained recordings of the call, in which Trump repeatedly suggests that Georgia election officials should be able to find thousands of votes and fraudulent ballots. Specifically, Trump said, “I just want to find 11,780 votes,” one more than he lost by,” the fact check said.
Trump, who hinted in the town hall that he might pardon some convicted January 6 rioters, also said that only “a couple” of the rioters that day “probably got out of control.”
“This statement is false. Hundreds of rioters have been charged with violence toward police on January 6 and Trump downplaying the violence and equivocating the insurrection with social justice protests fails to recognize the severity of the attack on the Capitol,” CNN said. The network also disputed Trump’s claim that the Capitol Police officer who shot Trump rioter Ashli Babbitt was a “thug” who “went on television to brag about the fact that he killed her.” That officer, Michael Byrd, did give a television interview but did not “brag” about the shooting.
The town hall took place the day after a jury in New York found against Trump in the civil case in which E. Jean Carroll accused him of rape and defamation. While the jury did not find Trump raped Carroll, they did find that he sexually abused her, and defamed her, while awarding Carroll over $5 million.
“They said he didn’t rape her, and I didn’t do anything else either,” Trump claimed on CNN, although the fact check debunked this.
CNN also disputed Trump’s claims about energy policy, security arrangements on January 6, and more.
Fact checks notwithstanding, it’s likely that many multiples of people watched the show on CNN than read the fact check on CNN’s website.
CNN’s usual fact checker, Daniel Dale, did not have his byline on the fact check and also has not tweeted since late April.
Expertise and Experience: Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.