Trump lied at CNN’s Town Hall, and no voter learned anything new

OPINION: CNN's Town Hall felt like we were watching a Trump campaign stop. I know the audience members were Republicans, but did the Trump campaign get to pick them?

Trump CNN town Hall,
Former President Donald Trump speaks at the National Rifle Association Convention in Indianapolis, on April 14, 2023.(AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

Last night CNN gave us a preview of what Trump 2024 will look like, and it looks a lot like Trump 2020 and Trump 2016. It’s like one of those terrible Hollywood sequels where they just tried to remake the first film, but because they have no new ideas, it sucks. It’s remarkable that Donald Trump hasn’t changed at all. He’s got no new ideas, no new positions. It’s a new election, but the same old BS.  

Trump’s still pushing the Big Lie and saying the 2020 election was rigged. When CNN interviewer Kaitlin Collins pressed him on whether he would accept the results of the 2024 election he said, “Yes,” but only if *he* thought it was a fair election. So that’s a no. Trump is also still saying we must save our country from immigrants. He’s still saying we should protect ourselves from mass shooters by arming teachers. He’s still diving into anti-Asian racism. He made repeated insinuations that Biden had to be doing something wrong because he had an office in Chinatown. All the old hits. At one point, he rudely snapped at Collins, calling her “a nasty woman,” reminiscent of what he said in the past about Hillary Clinton, Rosie O’Donnell, Megyn Kelly and other women. He’s still the king of toxic masculinity. 

Trump continues to live inside a reality distortion zone that he creates. Inside that, anything is possible, which means CNN gave him a platform to mainstream and normalize his favorite lies. Also, Trump remains a victim. Everyone else is lying, and everyone is out to get him. He never does anything wrong. Did you know that he was exonerated out of being impeached? No? Did you know that he had every right to take classified documents from the White House? No? They’re automatically declassified as soon as he takes them. Really? The FBI raided Mar-A-Lago, and Trump makes it sound like he was the one who was wronged. He is the patron saint of white victimhood because he, too, is a victim.

The setting made it an even stranger thing. It was really jarring to watch Trump lie and spout conservative conspiracy theories and be incredibly inappropriate while the studio audience loved him. They laughed. They clapped. It was a gross little love fest. It felt like we were watching a Trump campaign stop. I know the audience members were Republicans, but did the Trump campaign get to pick them?

Collins did her job by trying to inject some real questions while the audience was content to toss softballs. An audience member asked about Ukraine, and the war there is important but if I had one chance to ask the probable nominee for my party one question it would not be about an issue that has zero impact on my daily life. Trump said if he were president, he could get the war in Ukraine solved in 24 hours. Collins pressed him, but he could not say how he would do that. The insinuation was that he’s so tough and so smart as a negotiator that he would somehow make it happen, but foreign policy isn’t about being tough. Collins tried to make it a newsworthy moment by asking him if he wanted Ukraine to win. Trump refused to say yes. Once again, Trump seems to be on Russia’s side. 

This whole town hall was of no value for American voters. Trump answered a valid question –“What can you do about Ukraine?” – with an impossible promise: “I will solve it very quickly!” That sounds good on a gut level — “I sure do want that war to end,” but it’s all a lie. He can’t end that war in 24 hours. So the voter isn’t actually informed. They’re just up to date on Trump’s propaganda.  

That CNN Town Hall did nothing to educate anyone about how they should vote. The event was pure spectacle. Trump declined to answer most of Collins’ questions, so there was no real discussion of what it would mean to put him back in power. 

Well, let me take a step back. As far as politics and policy, we learned nothing. As far as humanity, we were reminded, once again, that Trump is a miserable, obnoxious, bully who’s unserious and unprepared for the presidency. 

It’s particularly hard to see this spectacle unfold on CNN, a network that was a critical part of why he rose to the top of the 2016 primary. Early on, when most people thought of him as an entertainer and a curio, CNN aired his rallies in full and let him call in to their shows. They over-covered him, which helped him gain popularity, which made him seem worthy of coverage and consideration. CNN is a big part of why Trump became president, and this latest town hall makes it look like they’re ready to cover him in a way that hurts the country once again.


Touré is a host and Creative Director at theGrio. He is the host of the podcast “Toure Show” and the podcast docuseries “Who Was Prince?” He is also the author of seven books including the Prince biography “Nothing Compares 2 U” and the ebook “The Ivy League Counterfeiter.” Look out for his upcoming podcast Being Black In the 80s.

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