CNN’s town hall with Donald Trump wasn’t just a disgrace – it was a ratings dud

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When CNN hosted a live “town hall” last night with Donald Trump and an audience that appeared to consist entirely of existing Trump supporters, it was a predictably disgraceful debacle. Trump certainly didn’t help himself by reminding mainstream Americans of just how hideous he is. Trump’s advisers are leaking that they’re thrilled with how the evening went – but that’s the kind of thing you feel compelled to leak when everyone knows something was a disaster and you’re trying to convince everyone otherwise.

Meanwhile CNN ran its already-sinking reputation through a shredder by hosting the debacle – and for what? It turns out, very little. The “town hall” got about three million viewers. If that sounds like a lot, it’s really not. It’s only about one percent of all voting age Americans. While CNN did draw higher ratings than MSNBC or Fox News during the hour, it was still only a fraction of what a Trump “town hall” would have drawn in previous election cycles. In fact it’s only a fraction of the ratings that the January 6th Committee public hearings drew on its best days.

Given how thoroughly CNN hyped this “town hall” in advance, and how much of a ratings draw Donald Trump is supposed to be, these numbers have to be seen as a ratings dud. Whatever CNN might have been hoping to get out of the event, it didn’t happen. CNN clearly failed to bring over the Fox News audience it’s been coveting. And the tiny amount of additional ad revenue brought in during that one hour will be more than wiped out by the number of longtime CNN viewers who will be too disgusted to keep tuning in.

The bottom line is that CNN bet big on the continued relevance of Donald Trump as a political candidate, and lost that bet overwhelmingly. It’ll cost CNN dearly. But the bigger story here is that Americans clearly no longer view Trump as a political candidate, given that literally 99% of them declined to tune in for his big “town hall.” At this point most Americans simply see Trump as a criminal defendant. They’re pleased he’s been indicted in Manhattan, they’re excited for the DOJ to hit him with much stronger charges, and the only TV ratings he might ever be able to draw will be if his criminal trials are televised.

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