Author and veteran journalist E. Jean Carroll will seek new damages from disgraced former U.S. President Donald Trump as part of a separate defamation lawsuit against him, the New York Times reported on May 22 2023.
Carroll is reportedly seeking a “very substantial” amount from Trump, in the wake of a heavily-criticized “town hall” broadcast on CNN which 12 days earlier — and a day after Trump was found liable of defamation and battery in a civil suit filed by Carroll. A New York City jury awarded her $5 million in damages.
When asked about that matter by presenter Kaitlan Collins — a former staff member for the right-wing Daily Caller blog who wrote articles mocking “Guantanamo hipsters” and refugees from Syria, among others — Trump mocked Carroll and told his habitual lie about the trial, calling it “rigged.”
“What kind of a woman meets somebody and brings them up and within minutes you’re playing hanky-panky in a dressing room?” Trump said. A full transcript of the broadcast can be found here.
Carroll said her attorney sent her a transcript of the event.
“It’s just stupid, it’s just disgusting, vile, foul, it wounds people,” she told the newspaper at the time. “We have to weigh the various pros and cons and we’ll come to a decision in the next day or so, probably.”
Carroll’s filed documents seeking to include Trump’s latest insults as part of a defamation suit she filed in November 2019, which has yet to go to trial. On April 21 2023 the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals remanded that case to Lewis A. Kaplan, who presided in the civil trial that resulted in Carroll’s $5 million decision.
Trump also faces possible criminal charges in Georgia and New York for allegedly both attempting to overturn the presidential election and “hush money” payments toward former adult entertainer Stormy Daniels.
As journalist Brian Stelter (who was fired from the network in August 2022) reported, CNN chief executive Chris Licht claimed in a conference call with staff members that “America was served very well” by the broadcast.
“You do not have to like the former president’s answers, but you can’t say that we didn’t get them,” Licht claimed. “Kaitlan pressed him again and again and made news. Made a lot of news.”
The channel’s Reliable Sources newsletter declared, however, that it was “hard to see how America was served by the spectacle of lies” that Trump delivered during the broadcast:
At one point, he even insulted Collins, calling her a “nasty person,” to which the crowd of New Hampshire Republican primary voters broke out in cheers.
“We don’t have enough time to fact-check every lie he told,” anchor Jake Tapper candidly said after the event wrapped up.
The Daily Beast reported that despite Licht’s claims that the Trump event was a positive, CNN staff members were upset about the broadcast:
“This is so bad,” one CNN on-air talent told The Daily Beast as the town hall was still airing. “I was cautiously optimistic despite the criticism… it is awful. It’s a Trump infomercial. We’re going to get crushed.”
Another network staffer was even more blunt. “One of the worst hours I’ve ever seen on our air,” she sighed.
The network was also roundly criticized by outside journalists for platforming Trump, who inspired — if not outright incited — the January 6 2021 coup attempt against the United States Capitol with his false, weaponized narratives about the 2020 presidential election.
“There was no delusion. No one is surprised,” said journalist and former CNN talent Soledad O’Brien. “Employees are embarrassed. Post Town Hall-ers won’t say The Thing That Should Be Said: which is: why did we platform that?”
MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan wrote in a Twitter thread that Collins “could have come armed with her own receipts”:
When Trump was falsely claiming he gave the order on the National Guard on Jan 6th, and denying his acting [Secretary of Defense] Christopher Miller later said otherwise, Collins could have played the relevant Miller audio from the January 6th Committee.
When Trump falsely claimed the Presidential Records Act allowed him to “negotiate” on which documents he can keep, Collins could have put up onscreen an image of the Act and the relevant clauses and asked Trump then and there to identify which bit allows him to do that.
Media critic Dan Froomkin said that the Trump broadcast provided evidence that Licht himself should leave CNN.
“The ‘town hall’ format … is notoriously easy for a con man to manipulate – is wholly inadequate,” Froomkin wrote on his site Press Watch. “You can’t let this man speak live to your audience. And you can’t just have one person fact-checking him.”
The broadcast also aired a week after David Zaslav, president and chief executive officer of CNN’s parent company Warner Bros. Discovery, inaccurately cast the event as an appeal to objectivity. As Media Matters reported:
“The U.S. has a divided government. We need to hear both voices, that’s what you see,” Zaslav explained. “Republicans are on the air on CNN, Democrats are on the air. All voices should be heard on CNN.”
When questioned by co-host Andrew Ross Sorkin over whether this approach can achieve ratings success, Zaslav replied, “Well, look, we’ve got a great political season coming, this is a new CNN,” as if the coming election were an upcoming release of network TV entertainment.
The company’s turn toward the right has also drawn increased scrutiny toward board member John Malone, a billionaire and self-described libertarian who donated $250,000 to Trump’s inauguration in January 2017.
In a widely-quoted November interview, Malone described the right-wing Fox network as a model he would like to see CNN more closely resemble.
“Fox News, in my opinion, has followed an interesting trajectory of trying to have ‘news’ news,” Malone said at the time. “I mean some actual journalism, embedded in a program schedule of all opinions.”
We contacted CNN seeking comment. The network did not respond.
Update 5/22/2023, 3:37 p.m.: Updated to reflect that Carroll will seek additional damages against Trump as part of a separate defamation suit she filed against him. — ag