CNN IN FULL DAMAGE CONTROL MODE – INTERNALLY AND EXTERNALLY

“I absolutely, unequivocally believe America was served very well by what we did last night” was embattled CNN CEO Chris Licht’s morning-after response to his own employee’s post-show assessment of Wednesday night’s New Hampshire town hall featuring Donald Trump in his full-throated social media mode.

“It’s hard to see how America was served by the spectacle of lies that aired on CNN Wednesday evening,” is how CNN “Reliable Sources” editor Oliver Darcy opened his newsletter sent out in the hours after the circus left St. Anselm College.

Licht, on the CNN Thursday morning editorial call did go beyond simply gainsaying Darcy’s devastating opening line: “It laid bare and created, in the words of Joe Scarborough, a political earthquake, and that people woke up and they know what the stakes are in this election in a way that they didn’t the day before.”

So Licht invoked the guy he helped create at MSNBC to justify what he did Wednesday with CNN.

And in the process, strongly implied that the country is so stupid it had to be reminded again just who Donald Trump is.

Weak and insulting tea

“We don’t have enough time to fact-check every lie he told,” anchor Jake Tapper candidly said after the event wrapped up.

But why throw Kaitlin Collins to the wolves, not only setting her up with an interview subject who knows no boundaries, but also with a studio audience filled with Republican voters and, if some reports are to be believed, Trump campaign workers?

As Tom Jones of Poynter noted, “This wasn’t a town hall. It was a Trump rally.”

“The Daily Beast’s” Justin Baragona reported that a CNN staffer told him, “One of the worst hours I’ve ever seen on our air.”

Who in the hell thought a studio audience was a good idea – a studio audience made up of partisans?

Is that really how this election is going to be conducted on television?

Like a series of WWE matches?

Collins tried.

“The election was not rigged, Mr. President,” she said after yet another Trump lie about his loss to Joe Biden in 2020. “You can’t keep saying that all night long.”

Erik Wemple of the “Washington Post” pointed out: “Sure he can. He can lie about presidential documents; he can lie about his impeachments; he can lie about his record in office; and there is nothing an impeccably prepared interviewer can do to prevent any of it. She can rebut him, correct him, interrupt him and otherwise battle with him over every point, but that’s no match for ceaseless mendacity.”

Is this the best that television can do when confronted with candidates who know no boundaries, have no decency, are devoid of honesty and courtesy?

The media, ALL of the media, has to come up with a way to deal with this other than attempting to correct, redirect, and scold.

One cure would be to turn off the mic and end the charade.

Extreme?

No more extreme than what Kaitlin Collins was trying to deal with on Wednesday night.

CNN and Chris Licht own this debacle and owe us and Collins an apology.

And a promise to go back to the drawing board and try to figure out how to deal with serial liars with a devoted following.

On the ratings front, the program won the time period, but with barely more than 3 million viewers.

You can bet that executives, being the avaricious animals they are, are already thinking, “What the hell. Give them more circus and less substance.”

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