February 23, 2024

CNN Worldwide Chairman and CEO Chris Licht speaks on stage during the Warner Bros. Discovery Upfront 2022 show at the Madison Square Garden Theater on May 18, 2022 in New York City.

Dimitrios Cambri | Getty Images

Nearly a week after CNN’s May 10 town hall meeting with Donald Trump, CEO Chris Lichter admitted internally that he wanted the network to do something different.

Licht continued to support the town hall concept, telling people inside and outside CNN that history will be kind to the network’s decision to interview Trump in front of cheering supporters in a live town hall format.

But he wants to accomplish several elements of production differently, according to people familiar with his thinking.

Lichter said he wished he could introduce the live audience to the TV audience so viewers could better identify who they were, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions are private.

The crowd was the star of the event, as many Trump supporters cheered his response and laughed at CNN host Kaitlan Collins when she challenged him. Lichter had wanted to publicly question the crowd before the town hall began so TV viewers could better understand who they were and why they supported Trump, the people said.

Licht and other CNN executives also pointed to elements of direction that CNN could have done differently, such as when Collins tried to refute Trump’s lies about 2020 election fraud, she only focused on Collins, not Trump. and Collins both use wide-angle lenses. That way, CNN can draw viewers’ attention to the substance of the issue, rather than the spectacle of Trump. CNN can also graphically display each question as Trump speaks, emphasizing that his responses don’t always match the topic at hand.

Licht said he wished after the town hall that he had network anchors focus on news releases from Trump, such as his claim that he would resolve the Russia-Ukraine war within 24 hours, or his refusal to speak out on a federal abortion ban. For example, CNN could Go live to a reporter in Ukraine, which reminds viewers of the network’s news coverage.

The post-event panel, co-hosted by CNN anchors like Jake Tapper and Anderson Cooper, looked somber after the town hall, clearly showing the trauma of Trump’s previous interviews and speeches in which he Peddle election fraud lies and talk to questioners.

A CNN spokesman declined to comment.

Several high-profile CNN employees told CNBC they were embarrassed by the Trump town hall.It was the lowest point for the network since the 2012 cyber incident, one person said. initial false positive The Supreme Court struck down the Affordable Care Act.

warner bros found CEO David Zaslav picked Licht to run CNN last year in an attempt to reimagine the network as a fact-only cable news network.

Other news networks may follow CNN’s lead and book interviews with Trump — especially if he continues to emerge as the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. NBC and its news networks have been in touch with a number of U.S. presidential candidates, and various parties, including Trump, are discussing arranging an upcoming appearance, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Given CNN’s performance, it’s unlikely that NBC will do the town halls that Trump does, the person said. An NBC spokesman declined to comment.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of CNBC.

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