CNN has been on the hot-seat since it announced it will be holding a televised prime-time Town Hall in New Hampshire with Donald Trump Wednesday night.
In expressing the criticism shared by many, Norman Ornstein, the eminent political scholar, said the invitation to Trump “legitimizes a man under indictment, currently on trial, with more indictments to come, who incited a violent insurrection against the country and its constitution and democracy”…and that to Trump it’s “a godsend — a network he hates bowing down to him and giving him attention and airtime.”
Defending the network’s position, its political director David Chalian said “CNN goes all in on covering the presidential campaign, and a key piece of that is town halls with the candidates,” …and that the Town Hall “helps inform voters about their choices.”
Chalien added that Trump is the Republican front-runner for the nomination, stating, “For us, our job, despite his unique status, is the same. We have to hold him to account for his words and his actions. … I don’t think our mission as journalists is anything less than to cover the news. And he’s the news.”
And I 1000% agree.
I believe it’s critical to our democracy. To free speech and the First Amendment. It’s also highly practical. There are those who’d rather close their eyes and ears and pretend the deplorables don’t exist. Because if we pretend they don’t exist, maybe they’ll go away, right? Well, guess what? They don’t go away. They get even stronger, because fewer people are publicly resisting and rebuking them and their rhetoric.
I’m the opposite of that. I believe in keeping my friends close and my enemies closer.
Two days ago I was on the NYC subway with my 19 yr old daughter. A psychotic looking guy briskly walked straight towards me angrily muttering to himself while giving me a menacing look. We read all the time about people like this whipping out a knife and randomly stabbing people. As he passed me, I turned to follow him with my eyes because I didn’t want to be another statistic who gets stabbed in the back at 14th Street. If someone’s coming at me with a knife from behind I wanna see it so I have a chance of defending myself. My daughter sternly looked at me and warned, you’re not supposed to make eye contact! She was afraid. Her thinking was, ‘if we just turn away and pretend he doesn’t exist, we’ll be ok’. But any reader of the tabloids knows that that’s not how life works.
I’ve never turned away. Over 40 years ago when I was getting my journalism degree I learned that the world is full of unscrupulous, dishonest, scandalous and even dangerous people, and that the job of journalism and journalists is to expose them. To challenge them. To rebuke them. To not turn away.
CNN is doing its job. As viewers, as voters, as Americans, it’s up to us to do ours.