CNN ‘Town Hall’ Debacle

Where does an objective assessment start as one attempts to describe the May 10th CNN live, staged TV event with former president Trump? Across the mediaverse, online commentary after the show varied, but two themes emerged: ‘The event was a spectacle’ and ‘it was a debacle’ …

Start here, a YouTube video:









The video’s commentator, Steve Schmidt, is a well known political figure, a former campaign manager for John McCain in the 2008 presidential campaign, and a Republican party ‘independent’. (Note: Steve Schmidt and StratDem’s editor share their names and are occasionally confused with each other — their respective Wikipedia listings act to prevent this by adding a ‘disambiguation’ clarification.)

The YouTube Steve Schmidt took on the CNN-Trump Town Hall presentation by issuing a stark message — “He was unhinged” — at The Warning and on his Substack site.




Steve Schmidt followed this with another commentary on May 13th.





Strategic Demand’s editor, Steven J Schmidt, initially took a different perspective on the CNN presentation, with background and a reveal about why CNN and its new corporate ownership is attempting to outfox the Fox network —

A New CNN Has Arrived; CNN Trump ‘Town Hall’ Tells a Tale


Your StratDem editor believes it’s time to “re-think” why CNN is “re-positioning” the network under new corporate ‘libertarian’ leadership.

A personal story — Back a few years your editor was developing a new media/mobile content platform and negotiating with NBC Universal and the office of Jeffrey Zucker.

This was during Zucker’s controversial reign as CNN president and when their Apprentice / Celebrity Apprentice series put Donald Trump on the map as a top TV ratings star.

The old CNN had a special place in creating the Trump brand as Trump’s businesses were failing in Atlantic City and banks were calling in their loans. Donald Trump was forced to re-negotiate his debt and re-position his company. Zucker threw him a lifeline — and a new business branding strategy.

Now, today, the new CNN, without Jeff Zucker, has been outdone by (Chris) Licht and (David) Zaslav, the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery.

The previous CNN had positioned itself in the cable/streaming mediaverse somewhere between Fox and MSNBC. The new CNN is now re-positioning itself to take Fox network viewers as their own. The Murdoch (and Roger Ailes) formula appealed to a man named Malone and now we are watching the formula play out…


One story tells a tale and it’s a story of deep pockets and a libertarian —


Why billionaire John Malone’s shadow looms over CNN

The CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, CNN’s new owner, wants an overhaul

August 26, 2022

One of the world’s most powerful news outlets has a new mandate — which happens to sync with the views of one of the world’s richest men.

By Peter Kafka @Vox


(John Malone) plucked NBC executive David Zaslav to run Discovery in 2006.

That relationship has given Zaslav a powerful mentor. It has also made Zaslav very wealthy, via a series of giant stock-based compensation packages. The two men have been in constant touch via phone calls and walk-and-talks over the years.

“Anybody who underestimates the amount of space that [Malone] occupies in David’s strategic mind and emotional bandwidth has just not followed the last decade,” says one of Zaslav’s friends. “He’s in awe of John,” says another Zaslav pal.

The two men do have very different politics: Zaslav has been a consistent donor to Democrats; Malone is conservative/libertarian whose bona fides include a former board seat at the Cato Institute, the libertarian think tank, and a $250,000 donation to Donald Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee. (Two years later, Malone had pivoted: He told CNBC that Trump generated too much chaos and shouldn’t have a second term. “Look, I think a lot of the things Trump has tried to do — identifying problems and trying to solve them — has been great. I just don’t think he’s the right guy to do it,” he said.)

Malone has also said he admires Rupert Murdoch as a business frenemy and shares a political viewpoint with the Fox News owner…




Past is Prologue, History and the Making of the Present

Look back as we move on.

Re-call how Donald Trump was turned into a TV star by Jeff Zucker of NBCU and CNN…



In December 2015, after the demagoguery of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign became clear, I (NYT reporter Ben Smith) asked CNN’s president, Jeff Zucker, if he regretted his role in Mr. Trump’s rise.

First Mr. Zucker — who put “The Apprentice” on NBC in 2004 and made Mr. Trump a household name — laughed uproariously, if a bit nervously. Then he said, “I have no regrets about the part that I played in his career.” Via the NY Times




Steven J Schmidt/StratDem Editor:

It is there to see — the “career” of Donald Trump was built on Apprentice fame and his signature “You’re Fired” line.

NBCU and CNN and other media networks would do well to be concerned about the roles they played in the past and will again be playing in creating the former president’s career.

It’s a story arc and it’s time for a Third Act in this 21st century drama.

Now let us ask, as citizens engaged in protecting our democracy: What happens next?



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