CNN vet Anderson Cooper called the network’s May 10 presidential town hall event with Donald Trump “disturbing,” and told viewers that they “have every right to be angry and never watch this network again.”
“Many of you think CNN shouldn’t have given him any platform to speak and I understand the anger about that — giving him the audience, the time, I get that,” Cooper said during the opening monologue of his CNN show “Anderson Cooper 360°.”
However, “the man you were so disturbed to see and hear from last night — that man is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president,” Cooper said, defending the network’s decision to give Trump a platform.
“According to polling, no other Republican is even close,” Cooper said. According to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) straw poll, Trump’s the preferred candidate for 62% of right-wing voters — a wide margin above No. 2, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who had 20% support.
“Do you think staying in your silo and only listening to people you agree with is going to make that person go away?” Cooper continued.
“If we all only listen to those we agree with, it may actually do the opposite,” he added of making Trump go away.
He also took the opportunity to bash his own network’s decision to put mostly Republican voters in the audience.
“It was certainly disturbing to hear that audience — young and old, our fellow citizens, people who love their kids and go to church — laugh and applaud his lies and his continued defamation of a woman who, according to a jury of his peers, he sexually abused and defamed,” Cooper said.
He was referencing a Manhattan jury’s May 9 decision — just 24 hours before the town hall event — that the former president is liable of sexual abuse and defamation. The decision was in response to a federal suit filed by E. Jean Carroll, accusing Trump of raping her in a Bergdorf Goodman fitting room decades ago and then defaming her when he publicly denied her allegations.
Carroll was awarded $5 million by Trump for sexual abuse and defamation. The nine-person jury cleared Trump of the rape claim.
Cooper continued of the town hall’s invited audience: “The audience that upset you? That’s a sampling of about half the country. They are your family members, your neighbors and they are voting, and many said they’re voting for him.”
The long-time CNN host suggested Trump voters may be too sizeable to ignore. “That man you were so upset to hear from last night, he may be President of the United States in less than two years. It can happen again, it is happening again. He hasn’t changed and he is running hard,” Cooper said.
He went on to tell viewers that they “have the power to do something about it.”
“You can actually get involved. You can make a difference, whatever side of the aisle you’re on,” Cooper said in what appeared to be his cry to get Americans to get out and vote.
However, the audience was far from the last thing Cooper expressed was “disturbing,” citing many of Trump’s claims during Wednesday’s event.
“It was disturbing to hear him speak so highly of QAnon conspirators and insurrectionists who assaulted police officers and our democracy on January 6. And it was awful to hear him spread ridiculous lies about the election,” Cooper said.
Wednesday night kicked off with a question from moderator Kaitlan Collins about the 2020 election, which Trump continued to insist was “rigged.”
Cooper pointed to other cutthroat comments made during the event, including when he referred to a black law enforcement officer involved in the Capitol riot a “thug,” and when he called Collins a “nasty person” while she was pressing him about the ongoing investigation surrounding Trump’s handling of classified documents.
The controversial 70-minute broadcast brought struggling CNN 3.3 million viewers. The ratings were a landslide above the network’s regular 8 p.m. news hour hosted by Cooper, who averages less than 1 million views.
It was CNN’s highest-rated programs in years, beating out rivals Fox News and MSNBC, which each logged 1.4 million total viewers in their coveted demos. It fell short of President Biden’s 2021 town hall broadcast, which delivered 3.7 million viewers.
This story originally appeared on NYPost