EXCLUSIVE: Former President Trump said CNN “did the right thing” by hosting him for a town hall Wednesday night, saying he “got the word out to millions of people that would generally not hear” his point of view on a number of campaign issues.
Trump, the frontrunner in the 2024 Republican presidential primary, participated in a CNN town hall Wednesday night, hosted by Katilan Collins. The network has been facing criticism for giving the former president a platform.
“I was happy to do it,” Trump told Fox News Digital. “I got the word out to millions of people that would generally not hear this point of view concerning things such as the border, inflation, the economy, energy independence, the Afghanistan catastrophe and more.”
“CNN is taking a lot of heat,” Trump said.
“I think CNN did the right thing by putting me on—all you have to do is look at their fantastic ratings,” Trump said.
He added: “It was an honor to do it.”
Fox News Digital reported Thursday that CNN was facing a “a fury of criticism” from its own employees for airing the town hall.
“It’s hard to see how America was served by the spectacle of lies that aired on CNN,” media reporter Oliver Darcy wrote in the network’s “Reliable Sources” newsletter. “It felt like 2016 all over again.”
Not all of the network’s staffers were upset by the event.
“We live in a democratic republic and Trump is the frontrunner for the GOP nomination,” a staffer told Fox News Digital. “It’s not the media’s job to silence a politician they don’t like. The format was messy, but voters need to hear from both of the frontrunners, Trump and Biden. And by the way, Trump did what his base wanted but his performance last night was radioactive to moderates and undecideds.”
CNN has defended the decision to air the town hall.
“Kaitlan Collins exemplified what it means to be a world-class journalist. She asked tough, fair and revealing questions,” a network spokesperson said.
“She followed up and fact-checked President Trump in real time to arm voters with crucial information about his positions as he enters the 2024 election as the Republican frontrunner,” the spokesperson continued. “That is CNN’s role and responsibility: to get answers and hold the powerful to account.”
CNN CEO Chris Licht also defended the decision on Thursday morning in a call with staffers, according to former CNN media reporter Brian Stelter.
Stelter, who founded the “Reliable Sources” newsletter and was fired by Licht last year, tweeted tidbits from the call.
“You do not have to like the former president’s answers, but you can’t say that we didn’t get them,” Licht said, according to Stelter. “While we all may have been uncomfortable hearing people clapping, that was also an important part of the story… America was served very well by what we did last night.”
Fox News’ Brian Flood, David Rutz and Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.