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‘Best Friends With Woke Media,’ Trump Agrees to CNN Interview

May 02, 2023

He calls them “the enemy of the people,” and often delights when supporters chant “CNN sucks” at his rallies, but Donald Trump won’t let animosity get in the way of good television. The former president will sit down for a town hall hosted by CNN next week.

A senior Trump advisor explained away the apparent incongruity, telling RealClearPolitics the reason they accepted the invitation: Network executives “made a compelling pitch.”

That kind of programming note wouldn’t drive headlines for other candidates. Voters don’t care about the minutia of journalists jostling for access. Of course, Trump is different though. From his frequent attacks to his administration’s unsuccessful attempt to pull their White House press credentials, Trump vs. CNN was both a very real legal case and a feature of his administration.

Other camps in the Republican presidential primary are taking notice, arguing that the new CNN coziness is more evidence that Trump’s hatred of the media has either waned in recent years or was always a charade.

A spokesman for NeverBackDown, a super PAC encouraging Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to run, told RCP that Trump was rewarding old enemies. “Donald Trump has changed, and not for the better,” Erin Perrine said. “He’s now best friends with the woke media he used to call ‘fake news.’”

Trump World doesn’t make much of that allegation. The advisor countered that Trump was running to represent “all Americans,” hence the need to go on networks that aren’t traditionally friendly to Republicans. Then, they took what seemed like a veiled shot at DeSantis.

“Going outside the traditional Republican ‘comfort zone’ was a key to President Trump’s success in 2016,” the advisor said. “Some other candidates are too afraid to take this step in their quest to defeat Joe Biden and are afraid to do anything other than Fox News.”

If peace has indeed broken out between Trump and CNN, they will bury the hatchet at New Hampshire’s Saint Anselm College. The town hall will be moderated by CNN host Kaitlan Collins, an alum of the conservative Daily Caller, a website started by Tucker Carlson. The sit-down comes as Trump offers an implicit détente to the media. His campaign has invited numerous reporters from legacy media outlets to fly along on his plane to campaign events. DeSantis, meanwhile, continues to turn a cold shoulder to those outlets.

The Florida governor hardly ever sits down with the big networks or papers, preferring instead to drive his message on friendlier outlets like Fox News or Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire.

“The old way of looking at it is: ‘I have to do every media hit that I possibly can, from as broad a political spectrum as I can, to reach as many people as possible,’” Nick Iarossi, a longtime DeSantis supporter and a lobbyist in Tallahassee, told the New York Times earlier this year. “The new way of looking at it is: ‘I really don’t need to do that anymore. I can control how I want to message to voters through the mediums I choose.’”

More than just a strategic choice, DeSantis takes opposition to mainstream media outlets as an article of faith. “Don’t think that they’re coming to you in good faith,” he said in a broadside attack against the press while onstage with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds earlier this year. “They’re coming to you to be able to advance their agenda, and if you’re somebody that’s standing for our values, like Kim and me stand for, you are an impediment to their agenda.”

“So don’t play into it. Just speak the truth. Do your thing,” he continued, counseling that conservatives should “not give them the satisfaction that they are some type of neutral gatekeepers because they are not.”

It isn’t just Trump who has rejected that advice. Before he accepted an invitation to the network that he loved to hate, former Vice President Mike Pence sat down with CNN. So did Republican businessman and 2024 presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, who got into a contentious debate with liberal commentator Don Lemon. The two men had a heated discussion about slavery and the second amendment as co-host Poppy Harlow was sidelined and looked down at her phone.

According to a person present that day, Lemon “went ballistic,” yelling at producers during the segment and then refusing to acknowledge the candidate when the show went to break. Lemon was later let go by CNN. Ramaswamy praised the move.

This article was originally published by RealClearPolitics and made available via RealClearWire.
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