After a jury found former President Donald Trump liable for sexually abusing and defaming journalist E. Jean Carroll, most of the Sunday political talk shows covered or at least mentioned the news — with the exception of CNN’s State of the Union.
The May 9 verdict against Trump, which awarded Carroll $5 million in damages — $2 million for Trump's liability for sexual battery, and another $3 million for his subsequent defamation of Carroll — was a long time coming. Carroll filed a defamation lawsuit against Trump in November 2019 arguing Trump made a “series of false and defamatory statements” when he denied both the assault and knowing her following publication of her explanation of how he sexually assaulted her. Carroll filed a second suit in November 2022 after a New York law was enacted allowing people to bring older civil claims of sexual assault, which resulted in the verdict against Trump.
Back when the first suit was filed, the Sunday political talk shows completely ignored it. Now that the jury found Trump liable for sexually abusing and defaming Carroll, one could expect them to cover the story involving the disgraced former president and current Republican front-runner for the 2024 nomination. Yet CNN’s State of the Union failed to meet this basic expectation.
And that failure came just days after the network promoted Trump to its audience in a disastrous town hall that was celebrated by his supporters in the right-wing media and slammed by other actual journalists, including CNN senior media reporter Oliver Darcy, who called it a “spectacle of lies.” During the town hall, which was viewed by roughly 3.3 million viewers, the audience assembled by CNN laughed and applauded while Trump ridiculed Carroll and joked about the assault he had just been found liable for. (Carroll is reportedly considering suing Trump again for his comments and behavior on CNN.)
Unlike CNN’s flagship Sunday show, the other networks reported the verdict during their Sunday political programming, questioned guests about it, or at the very least (in Fox’s case), mentioned it once in passing.
- On ABC’s This Week, host Jonathan Karl opened the show by citing Trump’s attack on Carroll at the CNN town hall following the verdict as one example of him becoming “more extreme and less restrained.”
- On NBC’s Meet the Press, host Chuck Todd mentioned the verdict against Trump during an interview with former congressman and possible Republican presidential candidate Will Hurd, and discussed it at length with Christianity Today Editor-in-Chief Russell Moore in a segment about the lack of “morality” in the candidates the GOP supports. Moore said it was “shocking” to see Republicans and others so easily dismiss this $5 million verdict against Trump.
- On CBS’ Face the Nation, host Margaret Brennan asked Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley if the sexual abuse verdict against Trump “undermines your party,” which Haley refused to answer directly.
- And on Fox News Sunday, Fox News correspondent Gillian Turner at least mentioned “the accusations from E. Jean Carroll” while criticizing CNN for pressing Trump on questions that were not relevant to Republican primary voters.