Angelo Carusone explains how CNN’s town hall could “validate” the “cauldron of extremism” Donald Trump is fomenting

Carusone: “What's going to happen afterwards when Trump gets to announce that he went into the belly of the beast and the CNN audience was applauding for him?”

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Citation From the May 8, 2023, edition of MSNBC's The ReidOut

JOY REID (HOST): Republicans, Democrats, insurrectionists, everybody's on the air. Your thoughts, Angelo?

ANGELO CARUSONE (GUEST): I mean, I get a little uncomfortable with the false equivalencies and false balance, but that's the position they've taken. Because it's kind of a reflection of the larger posture that CNN has had over the last year or so, which is to basically mollify all of their right-wing critics or at least to attempt to mollify them by validating even the most bad-faith attacks on the network from them. And then shift their focus to try to appeal to them to come back on the channel with all sorts of concessions or sort of gimmes.

And I think, you know, yeah, of course he's the Republican frontrunner. There's some -- there's newsworthiness around it. It is absurd in some ways but we have to cover it. I appreciate that. What I don't appreciate is the circumstances and the timing. It feels kind of odious, like an attempt to goose their ratings ahead of not just the moment that we're in, in terms of Fox sort of sliding, but this big upfront event that's happening. So I think that's a part of it and I find that a little unsettling.

And I think the hubbub and the frustration that's out there is as much a reflection of the fact that they're giving Trump air time as a lack of confidence that CNN's going to do it well. And then the format, which is, you know, they keep saying, well, he's going to answer questions from citizens. You know, it's not about them engaging in journalism, it really is about just giving him sort of a platform. It does feel like a laundering and I think that's fundamentally what the major concern is here.


REID: And Angelo, I know for a fact, okay, because I know some folks over there, that some of their own, you know, people over there are very concerned about this as well. They actually have on their list of contributors people who experienced January 6th. They're not getting to have a rebuttal. They're not getting to have equal air time where they can talk about this. You know, they're -- it's pretty clear that what they want is for him to have an unfettered opportunity to say his thing. And they're not giving the -- go ahead. 

CARUSONE: Yeah, and I -- no, I was going to say, I think that's so valid. I mean, there are reporters, there are people that are concerned -- they have good reason to be. Because it's not just that he is out there promoting the same kinds of disinformation. He's playing, using the same strategy that he used last time, but it's even more intense and worse. He's literally trying to organize power on what used to be considered the really far fringes. He's pushed QAnon accounts on his other platforms more than 500 times in the past year. That's exponential increase since 2020, all by him. That's not an accident. He's doing it on purpose. He's literally organizing power in what is considered a militarized movement.

So this cauldron of extremism, just like your last topic, that we've seen swirling and that heat ratcheting up -- he's helping raise the temperature. And what CNN does in this forum, is not only give him the ability and the mechanics to help do that, without any sort of checks on top of it, but worse, they may be playing a big part in helping validate some of those things. 

We don't know how the guests or the participants are there. A lot of times when these town halls are being done, the campaign gets to fill a large portion of the seats. They haven't gone and said, "Hey, don't worry, we're not using the same tricks that we have in the past. We're not letting the campaign fill a single seat here. We're going to go out there and do it." What's going to happen afterwards when Trump gets to announce that he went into the belly of the beast and the CNN audience was applauding for him?