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Larry Lindsey

President & CEO, The Lindsey Group

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Opinion

Trump town hall fiasco shows why people don’t trust cable news

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Larry Lindsey

President & CEO, The Lindsey Group

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Donald Trump’s appearance on CNN for a live town hall inspired countless stories about the merits of giving the former president and 2024 GOP frontrunner air time. The network was raked over the coals by liberal politicians and viewers for hosting Trump. And while the event delivered a big bump in ratings for the network, the boost didn’t last very long.

Straight Arrow News contributor Larry Lindsey says the Trump town hall fiasco shows why people simply don’t trust cable news anymore.

It’s no secret that cable news is in trouble. CNN and Fox both have seen their ratings decline. In the case of CNN, it was because of the reaction to the town hall they had where Trump was being interviewed. And for Fox, it was their firing of Tucker Carlson. Let’s start with the numbers. 

CNN is now number four with just 335,000 viewers. That’s behind Fox with 1.44 million, MSNBC with 1.08 million, and Newsmax with 357,000, which by the way, has done better because of the meltdown at Fox.

At 8 p.m., Tucker used to draw 3 million viewers. Now his replacement draws less than a third of that. In fact, Greg Gutfeld at 11 o’clock, who’s basically a late-night comedian, leads the rest of the entire Fox lineup. And in the 25-to-54 demographic, he leads them by two to one. [On] CNN it’s been the attacks on how they handle the Trump town hall.

The truth is, Trump crushed the interviewer and the audience helped in the process. For example, they started off with 20 minutes of questions entirely focused on the past; on Trump’s election claims about losing in 2020 when he should have been winning, and about January 6. Fair enough. Trump has problems on both of those counts. But the audience saw this 20 minutes of constant attacks on his past performance as a bit of news bullying, which they believed was widely true anyway. And so as the questioning went on, the audience cheered more and more. And remember, the purpose of the town hall was for primary voters, i.e. Republicans. Why would you take an entirely Democrat criticism approach as a result?

It’s no secret that cable news is in trouble. CNN and Fox both have seen their ratings decline. In the case of CNN, it was because of the reaction to the town hall they had where Trump was being interviewed. And for Fox, it was their firing of Tucker Carlson. Let’s start with the numbers.
CNN is now number four with just 335,000 viewers. That’s behind Fox with 1.44 million, MSNBC with 1.08 million and Newsmax with 357,000, which by the way, has done better because of the meltdown at Fox.
At 8pm, Tucker used to draw 3 million viewers. Now his replacement draws less than a third of that. In fact, Greg Gutfeld at 11 o’clock, who’s basically a late night comedian, leads the rest of the entire Fox lineup. And in the 25-to-54 demographic, he leads them by two to one. [On] CNN it’s been the attacks … on how they handle the Trump town hall. The truth is Trump crushed the interviewer and the audience helped in the process. For example, they started off with 20 minutes of questions entirely focused on the past; on Trump’s election claims about losing in 2020 when he should have been winning, and about January 6. Fair enough. Trump has problems on both of those counts.
But the audience saw this 20 minutes of constant attacks on his past performance as a bit of news bullying, which they believed was widely true anyway. And so as the questioning went on, the audience cheered more and more. And remember, the purpose of the town hall was for primary voters, i.e. Republicans. Why would you take an entirely Democrat criticism approach as a result? There were plenty of questions to have asked Trump that would have been difficult. My favorite would be, Mr. President, And oh, by the way, all former presidents are called Mr. President, even Donald Trump should be … “Mr. President, you said you could end the Ukraine War in one day. Why don’t you tell us how you plan to do that?” Or, “Mr. President, you’ve always been an advocate of low interest rates. Tell me exactly how you plan to conquer inflation if you were to become president?”
Well, that would put him on the spot. And it would be two very relevant issues that the next president is going to have to deal with. Instead, the reaction in the media has called this basically win by Donald Trump disgusting. “All … CNN did was give a podium for Trump to spew his lies.” Okay, remember, I mentioned media bullying. Let’s face it, all politicians lie. Biden … lies constantly. He lies even about his biography. He lies about the economic data. So that’s what politicians do. Do you want to not have them on there? And not only that, what’s probably worse is that the media lies.
Let’s think about the three big stories of the last few years. The first was the Trump-Russia conspiracy, which was covered by big networks on a constant basis, leading their new shows, in basically an absence of news. We now know that the Trump-Russia conspiracy was entirely made up. It was the Clinton campaign that actually worked with Russian officials to put out the so-called dossier, which is totally discredited. And now we know that the FBI and the CIA had been criticized for their roles in that.
Then there was the coverage of COVID, which was entirely one-sided. People with a different point of view were largely excluded from the networks and banned from social media. The heroes during that time were Anthony Fauci and Governor Cuomo of New York. We now know that Fauci was highly conflicted, that a lot of his information was false. And we know that Governor Cuomo who, by the way, the networks cut to out of a presidential news conference, killed probably about 15,000 elderly people by packing them into nursing homes. Well, these were mistakes, yet they were the heroes.
And finally, there is the so-called Hunter laptop, which the networks all parroted was Russian disinformation, a throwback to the lie they told about 2016. Well, we now know it wasn’t Russian disinformation. It was entirely factual. It’s been corroborated. Sorry. Why did they lie about it over and over again?
So if the standard is your only expect truth on news, well, you know, you got a problem. What you should do really, is watch Straight Arrow News. We have to check our facts and you get to decide whether or not what we are doing is biased or not. That’s why we’re trying to break in to this entire cycle. Right now, most voters get their political information from social media. Does anyone think that what’s being passed around on social media is truthful? Of course not.
And yes, the networks and the newspapers generally take one side or the other, and filter the news that they cover. Well, what is our choice here? The audience, the marketplace clearly wants news that confirms their preconceptions. This is called confirmation bias. The only other alternative though, is no news at all. It’d be much better to have competing networks presenting their points of view, presenting all candidates so the voters can decide, not the news networks.

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