Following a CNN town hall with Donald Trump on Wednesday night during which the former president peddled dangerous lies on nationally-broadcasted TV for over an hour, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) condemned the network for giving a platform to Trump at all, calling the debacle a “profoundly irresponsible” move from one of the largest news networks in the U.S.
Ocasio-Cortez denounced CNN and Trump in an appearance on MSNBC after the town hall ended, emphasizing the danger that the network’s decision poses to victims of sexual abuse like E. Jean Carroll and to the country itself.
The lawmaker began by recognizing the “profound courage” and “sacrifice” that Carroll undertook to bring a civil lawsuit against Trump. “What we saw tonight is a continued demonstration of the sacrifice that women and survivors of sexual abuse across the country of all genders experience and the sacrifices that they make to come forward and challenge power,” she said.
She went on to say that CNN contributed to the systemic silencing of sexual abuse victims by giving Trump a platform to spread hatred toward Carroll so soon after the trial concluded.
“I think it was a profoundly irresponsible decision,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “What we saw tonight was a series of extremely irresponsible decisions that put a sexual abuse victim at risk, that put that person at risk in front of a national audience, and I could not have disagreed with it more. It was shameful.”
During the town hall on Wednesday, Trump put his racism and misogyny on full display, calling moderator Kaitlan Collins sexist names, making bigoted remarks about Asian Americans, and hatefully mocking E. Jean Carroll, who Trump sexually abused in 1996, a jury found this week. He called Carroll’s account of sexual abuse “fake news” and praised the Dobbs v. Jackson decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which has unleashed certain Christofascist hell on people across the country.
Meanwhile, Trump continued to spread his lies about the 2020 election that fueled the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and appeared to have sparked a movement for Republican fascists to work to destroy democracy across the country.
When asked about Trump’s election lies and the January 6 attack, Ocasio-Cortez repeated her stance that the attempted coup was just practice for more attempts by the right to silence Democrats and progressives and, potentially, once again try to install Trump as president in 2024 by any means possible. Indeed, during the town hall, Trump said that he was planning to pardon a “large portion” of January 6 attackers convicted for their participation in the attack.
“Why else would you pardon people who perpetuated a terrorist attack on the United States Capitol other than for reasons to support the person in a potential effort to do it again?” Ocasio-Cortez said.
The progressive also took to Twitter to denounce the town hall. “CNN should be ashamed of themselves,” she wrote.
“There is simply no way CNN can feign ignorance about the fact that they set up a sexual assault victim to be targeted and attacked on national television a day after the verdict,” she continued later in a tweet thread. “This, the choice to platform election disinformation, lies about January 6th, totally unchecked and reckless claims about abortion… they need to take ownership of what just happened. This cannot be normalized. It’s dangerous.”
Ocasio-Cortez was one of many voices to strongly criticize the town hall on Wednesday night, with many political commentators also emphasizing the irresponsibility of giving the former president, an inveterate liar, such a wide platform upon which to sling his lies.
“That Trump is an inveterate liar, an egotistical coup plotter and a charlatan has been shown beyond doubt,” Sasha Abramsky wrote for Truthout on Thursday. “All of that was public knowledge, yet CNN chose anyway to normalize this man and to give him 90 minutes to peddle his bile. The network gave him a platform to defame anew a woman who just won millions of dollars from him for his earlier rounds of defamation. And CNN gave him free rein to further attack the country’s already damaged democratic institutions.”
“This ghastly spectacle must surely rank as one of the lowest moments in television news’ storied history,” Abramsky wrote.
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