Former President Donald Trump caught both parties by surprise earlier this month, with his decision to appear on CNN’s town hall Wednesday. Trump hadn’t appeared on the network since his 2016 campaign for president. Since then, he’s generally spoken directly to his voters through outlets like Fox News.
However, Trump has defended his decision… and he’s announced big plans for Wednesday’s town hall.
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Specifically, Trump predicted either a “New & Vibrant CNN” or “a disaster.”
Trump said Tuesday via Truth Social, “I’ll be doing CNN tomorrow night, LIVE from the Great State of New Hampshire, because they are rightfully desperate to get those fantastic (TRUMP!) ratings once again. They made me a deal I couldn’t refuse!!! Could be the beginning of a New & Vibrant CNN, with no more Fake News, or it could turn into a disaster for all, including me. Let’s see what happens?”
To gather an audience, CNN invited people expected to vote in a Republican primary.
Once it begins, Collins must give audience members the chance to ask questions while determining when to step in with her own.
“It’s a balance beam and it can be walked,” said Frank Sesno, a former CNN Washington bureau chief now at George Washington University. “We’re going to see if Kaitlan is worthy of the Olympics.”
Collins was given the assignment over CNN colleagues like Dana Bash, Anderson Cooper, Jake Tapper, and 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 also earned some vocal supporters at Fox News during her 2018 tiff with the White House communications office. At the time, she was barred from a Rose Garden event after shouting questions at the White House press secretary.
Collins was chosen as moderator in part because she’s a rising star and in part because of her direct experience covering Trump. She’ll be onstage on Wednesday with a team of producers and “fact-checkers” giving her advice through an earpiece.
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During the Trump presidency, CNN lost some trust among conservatives, and Trump continually described the network as “fake news.” Since then, CNN has come under new management promising to pivot away from its more partisan entertainment, but the network is still facing an uphill battle to rebuild its audience.
“It’s obvious to everyone with half a brain that Trump won’t get a fair shake from CNN,” wrote columnist Paula Bonyard for the conservative PJ Media. “Why does he keep prostrating himself before these dishonest left-wing media hacks?”
On the other hand, some liberals still have deep-seated suspicion dating to CNN’s frequent coverage of Trump’s rallies before the 2016 election, which gave a ratings boost to the network and outsize airtime to the first-time candidate.
“I find it very hard to defend the choice to give him a live platform, no matter how it is dressed up,” MSNBC’s Chris Hayes said on his show, which will directly compete with Trump on Wednesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.