President Trump returns to CNN tonight for the first time since 2016 in a live town hall from NH

Surprise, surprise!  Former president Donald Trump, acknowledging an offer he couldn't refuse, is scheduled to appear in a live town hall event on CNN tonight (Wednesday, May 10) starting at 8 P.M. E.T. with a replay four hours later.  CNN's online schedule has it running for 75 minutes.  This will mark the first time POTUS 45 has been interviewed on the channel since before he was elected president in 2016.

The ensuing years, both during and after his presidency, witnessed President Trump frequently identify CNN as the leading example of the term he introduced to describe much of the mainstream media: "fake news."  More than once, he also decried CNN as an "enemy of the people."  Recently, however, CNN's new corporate management has made it known that the channel will in the future aim to be less ideological, more balanced, and more open to the conservative right.  The recent firing of Don Lemon, one of Mr. Trump's leading critics on the channel, might be a sign that something is finally changing there.

The moderator of tonight's broadcast will be Kaitlan Collins, the co-host of CNN's struggling morning show.  Lemon was a co-host of the program until he was sacked on April 25 — ironically, the same day that FOX News ceased carrying its number-one prime-time program, Tucker Carlson Tonight.  Collins, a fast-rising star at CNN, before joining the cable channel in 2018 worked for the Daily Caller, the conservative online publication co-founded by...Tucker Carlson.

Without specifying what CNN offered him, President Trump, according to Forbes, "said he decided to accept the network's offer to appear because 'they made me a deal I couldn't refuse.'"

Yesterday, veteran AP media reporter David Bauder headlined his story "Trump forum a big test for CNN, moderator Kaitlan Collins."

Donald Trump's town hall forum on CNN on Wednesday is the first major television event of the 2024 presidential campaign — and a gigantic test for the chosen moderator, Kaitlan Collins.

Both sides of the political divide expressed suspicion when the CNN forum at New Hampshire's St. Anselm College was announced last week. Some Democrats question whether the former president should be given the airtime, while Republicans wonder if a network Trump has long disparaged can be fair.

Once it begins, Collins must give audience members the chance to ask questions while determining when to step in with her own. She'll weigh how to correct misinformation in a potentially hostile environment: Invited town hall participants are those who expect to vote in a Republican primary.

Writing to his followers on his social media platform yesterday, President Trump weighed in.  According to Forbes:

Ahead of his first appearance on CNN in years, former President Donald Trump said his decision to take part in a prime time town hall Wednesday night "could turn into a disaster for all, including me." Writing on his Truth Social platform, Trump urged his supporters to watch, saying "I'll be doing CNN tomorrow night, LIVE from the Great State of New Hampshire."

CNN has been struggling in the ratings for years, but the situation was becoming acute — at least until FOX News took its number-one prime-time show, Tucker Carlson Tonight, off the air sixteen days ago.  As FOX News's ratings took a hit in prime time (albeit apparently temporarily), the numbers for its competitors — CNN, MSNBC, and Newsmax — improved, at least in the short term.  On Monday (May 8), according to the definitive Nielsen Research television ratings published by TV Newser/Adweek (free registration may be required to access), CNN's Anderson Cooper came in third in the 8 P.M. E.T. hour with only 575,000 total viewers.  In second place was MSNBC's Joe Scarborough Special with 1.063 million viewers.  First place went to FOX News Tonight (Tucker Carlson's old hour), guest-hosted this week by Kayleigh McEnany, with 1.557 million total viewers.

It is expected that the presence of Donald Trump tonight will pump up if not turbocharge CNN's lackluster ratings.

It should be remembered that candidate Donald Trump appeared regularly in exclusive sit-down interviews on both CNN and MSNBC in 2015 and 2016, prior to each of those channels going deep into Trump Derangement Syndrome after he was elected president (much to their surprise).  It makes political sense that reaching out to the viewers of one or both of those channels at this time as the 2024 presidential race takes shape.

Peter Barry Chowka is a veteran journalist who has covered national politics and the politics and economics of health care, popular culture, and media for over five decades.  His web page with links to his work is  Peter's extensive American Thinker archive:  Follow Peter on Twitter at @pchowka.

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