The CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour has strongly criticized her own network for hosting a town-hall event with Donald Trump last week, saying she had “a very robust exchange of views” with Chris Licht, the chief executive under fire for approving and then defending the decision to stage it.
Amanpour, giving the commencement address at Columbia Journalism School in New York on Wednesday, said in comments reported by Variety and other outlets: “We know Trump and his tendencies – everyone does. He just seizes the stage and dominates.
“No matter how much flak the moderator tries to aim at the incoming, it doesn’t often work. I would have dropped the mic at ‘nasty person’, but then that’s me.”
Trump called the CNN moderator, Kaitlan Collins, a “nasty person” – prompting applause from the audience of Republican voters in one of a number of raucous moments.
Licht has stood by the decision to broadcast the town hall, telling staff it reminded viewers of what was at stake in the 2024 presidential election.
Trump faces unprecedented legal jeopardy, including state and federal investigations of his election subversion and incitement of the January 6 attack on Congress.
Earlier this month, he was found liable for sexual assault and defamation against the writer E Jean Carroll. Nonetheless, he is the clear frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination.
After the town hall, in the state which will hold the first Republican primary, CNN said it acted “to get answers and hold the powerful to account”.
Amanpour told his audience of aspiring journalists: “I still respectfully disagree with allowing Donald Trump to appear in that particular format.”
She also said voters had shown they were aware of Trump’s behavior by voting against him in the past three elections.
Amanpour said she hoped CNN could rebuild trust with audiences.
“I can only hope that your trust in us might have been shaken but not shattered,” said Amanpour. “That you believe we can survive and rebuild that trust.”
Amanpour is the first CNN anchor to publicly disagree with the decision to host Trump, CNN reported, but other employees have criticized the broadcast. The morning after the town hall, Oliver Darcy, a reporter, criticized his employer in his Reliable Sources newsletter.
“It’s hard to see how America was served by the spectacle of lies that aired on CNN Wednesday evening,” Darcy wrote.
Darcy was reportedly rebuked by Licht.
Amanpour said US media was still not sure how to deal with Trump and his lies. She suggested similar strategies to those employed in the 1950s during anti-communist hysteria stoked by Joseph McCarthy, a Republican senator from Wisconsin.
“Maybe we should revert back to the newspaper editors and TV chiefs of the 1950s, who in the end refused to allow McCarthyism on their pages unless his foul lies, his witch-hunts and his rants reached the basic evidence level required in a court of law,” Amanpour said.
“His influence gradually decreased with all but his fervent colleagues and cults.”
Of CNN’s decision to broadcast Trump live, Amanpour said: “Some of the very best and even the most fiery, compelling interviews are, in fact, taped, and they are edited, not to change the context or the content or the truth or the intent , but to edit for filibuster and a stream of disinformation.
“So maybe less is more. Maybe live is not always right.”