WEDNESDAY, MAY 10, 2023
Tonight, he's on CNN: As Michelle Cottle notes in today's New York Times, the Trump Show continues tonight.
Yesterday, a verdict was reached in a civil trial. Tonight, it's on to a CNN Town Hall!
What happens yesterday in that trial? On the front page of today's Times, print edition headline included, the news report starts as shown:
Jury Finds Trump Sexually Abused Carroll in 1990’s
A Manhattan jury on Tuesday found former President Donald J. Trump liable for sexually abusing and defaming E. Jean Carroll and awarded her $5 million in damages. More than a dozen women have accused Mr. Trump of sexual misconduct over the years, but this is the only allegation to be affirmed by a jury.
In the civil case, the federal jury of six men and three women found that Ms. Carroll, 79, a former magazine writer, had sufficiently proved that Mr. Trump sexually abused her nearly 30 years ago in a dressing room of the Bergdorf Goodman department store in Manhattan. The jury did not, however, find he had raped her, as she had long claimed.
The jury, in returning the verdict shortly before 3 p.m., also found that Mr. Trump, who is running to regain the presidency, defamed Ms. Carroll in October when he posted a statement on his Truth Social platform calling her case “a complete con job” and “a Hoax and a lie.” His lawyer said he intended to appeal.
The Times reports that "more than a dozen" women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct. At other orgs, the number is frequently said to be 26.
Under the "more likely than not" evidentiary standard which prevails in civil trials, the jury found that Trump had sexually abused E. Jeanne Carroll. They didn't find that he had raped her.
At some point, some jurors may (or may not) describe the basis of their judgements. But as for today, it's on to that nationally broadcast Town Hall!
CNN's Kaitlan Collins has drawn the task of moderating the event. We became a major fan of Collins during the first Covid year, when she broke from an otherwise somnolent pack and pushed Trump to answer basic questions during his interminable, daily Covid-based "press events."
Collins has drawn a challenging assignment tonight. At the start of this morning's column, Cottle offers this overview of the event:
COTTLE (5/10/23): Hunker down, America. Here we go again.
The presidential election is still a year and a half away. But on Wednesday evening, Donald Trump will elbow his way back into the campaign mainstream. At a town hall event in New Hampshire hosted by CNN, the former president will field questions from audience members and the network anchor Kaitlan Collins.
The whole spectacle sounds downright chilling. The event will be live, leaving Mr. Trump more or less free to inject his lies straight into viewers’ veins. He will be coming off the E. Jean Carroll verdict, upping his odds of saying something awful about women or witch hunts and how everyone is always out to get him. And even if he dials down the crazy, his re-emergence on a major prime-time platform raises vexing questions. After everything this antidemocratic, violence-encouraging carnival barker has put America through, are we really going to treat him like a normal candidate this time? How can CNN and other media outlets justify giving him a megaphone from which to dominate and degrade the political landscape? Have we learned nothing from the past eight years?
Cottle is no fan of Donald J. Trump. For ourselves, we regard the former president as deeply disordered. We regard him as the person Bob Dylan described way back in 1968:
That man who with his fingers cheats,
Who lies with every breath...
For ourselves, we would give a songwriter the license to use the term "lies." If we were Cottle's editor, we would have directed her to replace that word in her text.
(Is there something wrong with a more verifiable term like "repeated flagrant misstatements?")
We regard Trump as badly disordered, in a way which calls for discussion by (carefully selected) medical / psychiatric specialists. We also know that tens of millions of our fellow citizens do not regard him that way—and we know that news orgs like Cottle's have agreed, for better or worse, that the type of discussion we've prescribed will never come to pass.
For better or worse, that's what the major orgs have decided. Along the way, Cottle also says this about CNN's decision to stage tonight's event:
COTTLE: Just to be clear: No one is daft enough to think that Mr. Trump and CNN are linking arms out of a selfless, high-minded commitment to the public good. They are using each other. Under new leadership, the network is looking to rebuild its reputation, and ratings, as a less crusading, more balanced news source.
As for the former president, CNN is just one piece of his grand media strategy. His team has been talking up how their guy wants to push the reset button on his relationship with the fourth estate. Journalists from mainstream outlets are being invited to travel on his campaign plane. And the campaign is negotiating with other top outlets, including NBC, for face time with the candidate.
During the 2016 campaign, the cable channels—MSNBC included—gave Candidate Trump astonishing volumes of unfiltered airtime, happily building their profits.
Is CNN at it again? It's hard to avoid such a thought. Cottle throws down and says yes.
At this site, we hugely admire CNN's Collins for much of the work we've seen her perform. We hope she's up to the challenging task which awaits her tonight.
Back in 2016, the cable channels—and major orgs like the New York Times—played significant roles in forging the path which took Trump to the White House. Will these orgs perform better in the coming campaign?
At this point, that's a story without an end.
In the wake of yesterday's verdict, we have continued to see "songs sung blue" being performed on MSNBC. That continued into the first few minutes of today's Morning Joe.
In many ways, the channel comes close to being a parody of a journalism enterprise. Even after the departure of Tucker Carlson, Fox News may be even worse—but MSNBC is the channel which claims to be working on behalf of blue tribe voters like Us.
Tomorrow, we'll return to the task of exploring the way those songs sung blue have been performed with respect to the now-concluded trial. In large part, we'll be examining the fascinating phenomenon known as CPD—Creative Paraphrase Drift.
In our view, blue tribe citizens should ask for better performance from our mainstream and tribal news orgs. Major experts continue to insist that no such ask will happen.
Yesterday, Donald J. Trump was on trial. Tonight, he's on CNN!
Tomorrow: In search of what Trump said
This afternoon: We're losing a chunk of time this morning.
This afternoon, to speed things along, we'll discuss Philip Bump's report concerning The Case of the Blurry Photo.