May 12, 2023

CNN’s Riefenstahl Moment

by Hal Gershowitz

Comments Below


Leni Riefenstahl, 1930s German filmmaker, and propagandist par excellence, would have nodded approvingly.

While lacking the grandeur Riefenstahl loved to capture in her extravaganzas, CNN’s Trump Townhall, nonetheless, presented the former President before a carefully selected fawning and cheering audience, chosen because they were certain to cheer on the Republican party’s standard bearer. That, of course, is what today’s likely Republican primary voters are predictably certain to do, and the CNN audience was, in fact, composed largely of likely Republican primary voters who CNN gathered at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, to cheer on the party’s standard bearer, his inanities notwithstanding.

Riefenstahl, I suspect, may have found Trump an intriguing subject. She had, as does he, an affinity for large political rallies with adoring fans.

By now, everything there is to say or write about former President Donald Trump’s performance on CNN’s Town Hall this week has probably been said or written. Similarly, almost everything there is to say about CNN’s production of the so-called Town Hall has been said or written. Almost everything, but not quite.

It was as boneheaded a production as could be imagined. To have assembled an audience of Trump enthusiasts, which polls confirm Republican primary voters are likely to be, was assembling a rally, not a town hall meeting. It was a blatant play for disgruntled Fox News viewers who are currently searching for alternatives to Fox after learning their former, now canned, Fox heartthrob, Tucker Carlson, “passionately hate(s)” the former president.

CNN’s strategy, including the timing of the so-called Town Hall, was, of course, quite apparent. The cable network is trying to capture some of Fox’s disgruntled viewers by showcasing Trump and his amen supporters.

The heavily Trumpian audience was rather bush league and shameful, signaling its approval of whatever the former President had to say or whomever the former President chose to insult, including the host of the spectacle, Kaitlin Collins. Trump, to the crowd’s cheers, called the young but highly professional and tenacious correspondent a “nasty person.”

There is nothing nasty about Collins, but the former President has his own definition of nastiness, which can be described as anything remotely critical of Trump. Collins, ever the professional correspondent, seemed unfazed by Trump’s adolescent taunt, and Trump seemed equally unfazed by his own pettiness.

The spectacle was little more than shameful pandering. CNN’s calculated self-flagellation by offering up its correspondent to ridicule by someone who has made a career of ridiculing those whom he perceives as the enemy backfired and backfired terribly.

News commentators throughout the country, including those employed by CNN, were uniformly critical. Few, other than, perhaps, Trump and the Trump wing of the Republican party, could have been impressed with the former President’s performance.

An estimated three million viewers tuned in to hear Trump urge the Republicans in Congress to force a default on the nation’s debt if they didn’t get the undefined spending cuts they were demanding. The hand-picked Trumpian audience cheered its approval. Does Trump want to stop Russia’s invasion of Ukraine? Not really; he just wants “to stop the killing.” That is Trumptalk for stopping the anticipated Ukrainian counter-offensive from recapturing territory Russia has grabbed from Ukraine.

Any second thoughts about having been found liable for defamation and sexual abuse of journalist E. Jean Carroll? “Have no idea who she is…a complete wack-job,” he said, to the approval of his adoring minions in the audience. Interestingly, Trump may get another chance to meet Carroll, given this latest defamation of the woman he was just found to have previously defamed.

Ironically, when, in deposition, he was shown a photograph of himself and E. Jean Carroll and a guest along with his late wife Ivanka, he mistakenly identified Carroll as his former ex-wife Marla Maples. An amusing mistake, given his prior advisory that he wouldn’t have had an interest in Carroll because she wasn’t his type.

On a more serious note, the tolerance among Trump supporters of the former President’s role in the January 6, 2021, disaster is vexing. When asked if he would accept the results of the 2024 election, Trump answered, “If I think it’s an honest election, I would be honored to.” That’s Trumpspeak for, if I win the 2024 election, I will accept the results, and if I lose the election, it will have been a rigged election. This is vintage Trump. When Ted Cruz beat him in the 2016 Iowa caucuses, Trump claimed the voting was rigged. Before the 2016 presidential election, which, to his surprise, he actually won, he claimed that Hillary Clinton’s campaign was rigging the election. In Trump’s head, he never loses.

He has been unambiguous about his intention, were he to reassume the Presidency, to pardon all but, perhaps, a couple of the hundreds who have been found guilty of interfering with the peaceful transfer of power in our country. To Trump, that awful day was “a beautiful day…full of people with love in their hearts.”

Some people were undoubtedly in Washington with love in their hearts. Others were also there, according to a jury of their peers, with seditious insurrection in their hearts. All who forced their way into the Capitol to stop the peaceful transfer of power were lawbreakers. The former President doesn’t seem to know the difference.

Please consider our Of Thee I Sing 1776 Premium option: For just $5/month, you’ll also receive my new weekly Podcasts featuring my conversation each week with an important and interesting guest. My recent podcasts have featured my discussions with:

John Thoresen, Executive Director, Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center

William Bratton, Retired Chief of Police, New York City, Los Angeles, and Boston

Rikki Klieman, Attorney, Network News Analyst, and best-selling author

Katherine Gehl, co-author of The Politics Industry and founder of the Institute for Political Innovation

Jazz artist Ann Hampton Callaway

Outlander author Diana Gabaldon

AI Data Scientist Lawrence Kite

Ryan Clancy, Chief Strategist of No Labels

Senator Barbara Boxer

Senator Joe Lieberman

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan

Join me in dissecting the day’s top news and other topics with a premium subscription to Of Thee I Sing 1776. And you will automatically receive the 2022 Edition of my ebook, “Essays for Our Time.” just click on this link to become a Premium subscriber:

All comments regarding these essays, whether they express agreement, disagreement, or an alternate view, are appreciated and welcome. Comments that do not pertain to the subject of the essay or which are ad hominem references to other commenters are not acceptable and will be deleted.

All comments regarding these essays, whether they express agreement, disagreement, or an alternate view, are appreciated and welcome. Comments that do not pertain to the subject of the essay or which are ad hominem references to other commenters are not acceptable and will be deleted.

Invite friends, family, and colleagues to receive “Of Thee I Sing 1776” online commentaries. Simply copy, paste, and email them this link—  –and they can begin receiving these weekly essays every Sunday morning.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *