CNN Is Hosting a Town Hall for a Guy Who Tried to Get Me Killed

Trump holds rally in Washington D.C as "Save America March" - Credit: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Trump holds rally in Washington D.C as "Save America March" - Credit: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

I woke up last week to a text from my mother. Its contents hit me like a sucker punch. “CNN is hosting a town hall with Trump; Kaitlin Collins is moderating. WTF!!!” Then came confirmation: CNN will in fact host a town hall on Wednesday, May 10, in prime time.

I can already hear the questions: And why shouldn’t they? Donald Trump is the clear Republican frontrunner for the presidency enjoying at least 70 percent of the Republican primary vote. Why wouldn’t it be appropriate for a network to have him on?

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My response to those questions is simple: Twice-impeached former President Donald J. Trump lied countless times to the American people, most famously when he told us (and continues to tell us) that the 2020 presidential election was rigged and that he was the winner.

So what, you say? They are just words — and certainly not the first time a politician has lied to constituents.

I’ll tell you why this is different. Those lies persuaded thousands of his supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, violently attacking uniformed police officers and terrorizing members of Congress and their staff. I witnessed this assault firsthand as an officer with the Metropolitan Police Department, who like hundreds of MPD officers, responded to the U.S. Capitol Police Department’s calls for assistance after their officers were overrun by Trump’s mob. As a result of my efforts that day I was severely beaten, struck numerous times with a taser, and suffered a heart attack as well as a traumatic brain injury. One police officer died, and several others took their own lives in the wake of that barbaric day.

It is not just that Trump’s lies and political rhetoric sparked an uprising at our nation’s Capitol. Trump, as U.S. president, lied in an effort to defraud the American people and overturn a free and fair election in an attempt to remain in power. (See the January 6th Select Committee’s Report.) In doing so he betrayed every aspect of his oath to represent us as Americans. We no longer need to imagine what Trump is capable of. He has shown us that he is an authoritarian who will use any means at his disposal, including violence, to remain in power.

Putting him onstage, having him answer questions like a normal candidate who didn’t get people killed in the process of trying to end the democracy he’s attempting to once again run, normalizes what Trump did. It sends a message that attempting a coup is just part of the process; that accepting election results is a choice; and that there are no consequences, in the media or in politics or anywhere else, for rejecting them.

Trump is well aware of all that. Since his announcement that he was seeking the presidency for a third time, he has offered to pardon his insurrectionist supporters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, calling them “Patriots” and “Great Americans.” He has even incorporated recordings of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “Justice for All” as sung by the J6 Prison Choir, a group of inmates imprisoned for their roles in the violent insurrection, into his rallies — giving these violent criminals a place of prominence in his campaign.

Then, this past March, Trump held a campaign event in Waco, Texas, on the 30-year anniversary of the armed siege there that took the lives of four special agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). In this not-so-subtle public display, Trump further embraced the anti-government violent extremist movement now spearheaded by groups like the Proud Boys, Three Percenters, and the Oath Keepers. Let’s never forget that Waco was preceded by Ruby Ridge (which took the life of a deputy U.S. marshal) and then followed by the Oklahoma City bombing. Three deadly events involving white supremacists and anti-government extremist groups armed to the teeth attacking law enforcement. Sound familiar? What American presidential candidate would want to be seen aligned with groups like these?

Now, full disclosure: I “work” for CNN. That is, I receive a monthly check from them and have since abruptly quit my job as an MPD officer almost one year to the day after I was injured. In the nearly two years that I have worked for this network, I have had countless conversations with its employees, producers, hosts, journalists, camera operators, etc. They all have stories about the Trump years. When the former president attacked them (many by name), he inspired countless acts of violence, both threatened and overt, from his supporters. Many employees told me they were afraid to wear anything that identified them as CNN employees when out in public. So why lend your network’s platform to someone like that?

In a recent trip to CNN’s Washington, D.C., bureau, I sat silently in the green room as guests, anchors, and employees filtered through and clamored about how outrageous it was that CBS would give Marjorie Taylor Green an interview on its prestigious 60 Minutes series. Good question? I hope my fellow CNN employees have the balls to raise those same questions with the network executives.

CNN is a major American cable news outlet whose viewers trust that they are being given accurate reporting of events to the best of the network’s ability. With this trust comes an obligation and commitment to their viewers. In the past, CNN has recognized the dangers of allowing election deniers a public platform and would not allow them on-air. Under new “leadership,” that policy has been discarded as evidenced by CNN’s decision to allow the chief election denier, former President Donald J. Trump, a prominent time slot in its evening lineup. As if Trump were a normal candidate who had not attempted to steal an election by force. In the wake of Jan. 6, Trump’s ability to communicate to the masses was essentially stripped away from him. Twitter banned him for “life.” No major media outlets would have him on. So what has changed?

I’ve heard the network’s attempts to justify this clear reversal. The “He’s the frontrunner in the Republican primary” argument. Somehow the network’s ”ethical” responsibility changed from preventing election deniers a platform regardless of the topic to giving those same individuals a huge platform to disseminate their lies. I don’t believe for one second that this is about journalistic integrity. It’s about ratings and money. Sometimes things are exactly as they appear, and this appears to be an attempt by a major media outlet struggling with its ratings to attract disenfranchised viewers. To me, allowing Trump an open forum on a major television news network is the moral equivalent of putting an AR-15 in the hands of someone mentally unstable. Whether words or bullets — and I have seen firsthand the effects of both — they are equally dangerous in the mouths or hands of those who have shown us time and time again what their true intentions are.

Michael Fanone served 20 years as a member of the Washington, D.C., police department and is a current CNN contributor. 

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