Chris Licht, Chairman and CEO of CNN Worldwide speaks on stage during the Warner Bros. Discovery Upfront 2022 at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on May 18, 2022 in New York City.

Dimitrios Kambouris | Getty Images

Almost a week after May 10 CNN town hall with Donald Trump, CEO Chris Licht acknowledged internally that there were things he wished the network had done differently.

Licht remains behind the town hall concept, telling people inside and outside of CNN that history will look kindly on the network’s decision to interview Trump in front of cheering supporters in a live town hall format.

However, there are a few production elements that he would like to do differently, according to people familiar with his thinking.

Licht said he wished he had personally introduced the viewers to television viewers so viewers could better identify who they were, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions were private.

The crowd was the centerpiece of the event, as many Trump supporters cheered his responses and jeered CNN anchor Kaitlan Collins when she challenged him. Licht would like to ask the crowd an open question before the town hall begins, so TV viewers can better understand who they are and why they support Trump, the people said.

Licht and other CNN executives also pointed out elements of the direction that CNN could have done differently, such as focusing the camera on Collins alone as it sought to debunk Trump’s lies about election fraud in 2020, rather than using wide shots of both Trump and Collins. CNN was thus able to draw the audience’s attention to the substance of the issue rather than the spectacle of Trump. CNN could also graphically represent each question as Trump spoke, highlighting that his answers were not always relevant to the topic.

Licht said he wished the network’s hosts would focus on Trump’s messages after the town hall, such as his claim to settle Russia’s war with Ukraine within 24 hours or his refusal to consider a federal abortion ban. . For example, CNN could broadcast live to a reporter in Ukraine, which would remind viewers of the network’s journalistic reach.

The post-event panel, co-hosted by CNN anchors including Jake Tapper and Anderson Cooper, looked like they had a case of deja vu after the town hall concluded, clearly showing the trauma of Trump’s previous interviews and speeches selling election fraud. lies and talks over the interviewer.

A CNN spokesman declined to comment.

Several senior CNN staffers told CNBC they were embarrassed by Trump’s town hall. One person said this was the network’s lowest point since the 2012 incident, when the network was established initially misreported that the Supreme Court struck down the Affordable Care Act.

Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav he chose Licht to run CNN last year in an effort to recast the network as a facts-only central cable news network.

Other news networks are likely to follow CNN’s lead in booking interviews with Trump — especially if he continues to be the front-runner to win the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. NBC and its news networks have been in contact with many U.S. presidential candidates, including Trump, about planning for upcoming appearance, according to a person familiar with the matter.

NBC probably won’t do Trump’s town hall, given how CNN went, the person said. An NBC spokesman declined to comment.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the parent company of CNBC.

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