CNN faced mounting online pressure Tuesday after the verdict was released in the Donald Trump defamation suit filed by a woman who accused him of rape.
A New York City jury on Tuesday afternoon unanimously found that the ex-president had sexually abused former Elle columnist E. Jean Carroll in the mid-1990s and was liable for defamation after he accused her of lying about the encounter for personal gain. The jury stopped short of determining that Trump had raped Carroll. She is now set to receive $5 million in damages. Trump maintained his innocence throughout the trial, claiming after the verdict’s release that he had never met Carroll.
The news of the verdict came only one day before CNN is set to host Trump in a town hall-style event. While the move drew some praise from the former president’s right-wing allies, it was widely criticized by others as giving a platform to a figure known for using media attention to spread misinformation. The invitation to Trump was also highlighted as another example of CNN’s seeming shift to the right politically after its parent company merged with Discovery Inc.
In the wake of the verdict’s release, numerous observers took to Twitter, questioning CNN for holding the event in such close proximity to Trump being found liable of sexual assault by a jury.
“Trump is appearing at a [CNN] town hall tomorrow night,” journalist Judd Legum wrote. “If he is not asked multiple questions about the jury’s decision to hold him LIABLE FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT and THE NUMEROUS OTHER WOMEN WHO HAVE PUBLICLY ACCUSED HIM OF SEXUAL ASSAULT it will be a journalistic catastrophe.”
“So does CNN condone sexual assault?” lawyer Tristan Snell tweeted.
“Is [CNN] still going to do a town hall with the sexual predator twice impeached insurrectionist former president [Donald Trump]?” Alex Vindman, former National Security Council director ousted by the former president, posed in his own tweet. “I’m not watching it. I think it’s absurd for a major news network to normalize Trump.”
“Very cool to give Trump a chance to defame this woman again on live national TV,” MSNBC host Chris Hayes tweeted, echoing the concerns of others that Trump could use the CNN platform to further defame Carroll.
“If I were Chris Licht right now, I would be mulling over the fact that my tenure at CNN is going to be completely defined by what happens in the next 36 hours,” author Mark Harris tweeted, referencing the chairman and CEO of CNN.
Another user, assuming the persona of a former U.S. vice president, highlighted the dissonance between reporting on the verdict while featuring an advertisement for the town hall event on-screen at the same time.
Newsweek has reached out to CNN’s press office via email for comment.