In a rather unexpected announcement, CNN says it plans to welcome former President Donald Trump on the network next week for a live town hall forum from New Hampshire.
The decision comes after years of tense relations between the media outlet and Trump, who has frequently called CNN "fake news" and the "enemy of the people."
While Trump has taken audience questions at rallies and appeared for interviews on conservative-leaning networks, this will be his first town hall-style event since he announced his 2024 run for the White House. This will also be the first time Trump is appearing on CNN since his 2016 presidential campaign.
It would appear that he's giving the cold shoulder to Fox News, which is often a much less critical — some would say amiable — outlet for Trump. Fox has previously defended Trump's unfounded claims of voter fraud during the 2020 election and also played down his alleged influence behind the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
While a handful of Republicans have entered the 2024 race so far, only Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has emerged as a potential competitor for Trump, and he has yet to officially launch a campaign.
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DeSantis, like Trump and many other Republicans, has regularly appeared on Fox News and refused interviews with other more left-leaning outlets like CNN. As a result, Fox has emerged as a hub for politicians to bolster their support among more conservative viewers. Meanwhile, ratings at CNN have slumped.
Chris Licht took over the struggling network last year after a scandal involving former CNN president Jeff Zucker forced him to resign. Licht made it a clear mission to expand the network's horizons, ease tensions with the Republican Party and become a platform for politicians from both sides of the aisle.
As part of a major shakeup at the network, CNN parted ways with long-time anchor Don Lemon last month following backlash over his comments about Republican presidential candidates.
Most recently, Lemon claimed presidential candidate Nikki Haley was past her prime. When his co-host Poppy Harlow asked for clarification as to whether "prime" meant childbearing age or something else, Lemon told her to look it up on Google.
He also went viral last month for a contentious interview with Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, after he appeared to cut off Harlow as she tried to invite Ramaswamy back to discuss other topics.
While it's unclear that Lemon's firing is directly related to these interactions, it's clear that Licht is okay with moving on from major talent in order to pursue his mission for the network.
With the Trump town hall, Licht may also be trying to win over some Fox News viewers who are distraught after the network agreed to "part ways" with prime-time host Tucker Carlson, whose nightly program dominated the cable news landscape. In his final week with Fox, Carlson averaged more than 3 million viewers per night. The week following his departure, the network averaged just 1.6 million per night.
If all goes well, CNN booking Trump could be a step in the right direction for a network that, in February, had its lowest-rated month of the past decade.
The event will be aired live on May 10 at 9 p.m. ET from St. Anselm's College in Goffstown, New Hampshire. CNN anchor Kaitlan Collins will be the moderator. Trump will take questions from registered Republicans and undeclared voters.
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