“CNN has decided to take this path where they are kind of left-wing advocates,” Matt Schlapp said, chairman of the American Conservative Union and organizer of CPAC, referring to the Parkland town hall.
It’s a characterization that CNN president Jeff Zucker finds insulting, according to the Hollywood Reporter. “That criticism is silly,” Zucker tells The Hollywood Reporter. “The fact is we were there, we presented both sides. People who want to criticize are looking to just criticize before they even think about it.” He points out that Sen. Marco Rubio could have been joined by Trump or Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott, but both declined CNN’s invitation. “That’s not CNN’s problem,” he added.
NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch also attended the event.
“I think it was a really important milestone in this conversation because for one of the few times, people who have different points of view were together,” says Zucker. “And the problem is: all too often, whether it’s on blogs or websites or partisan television networks, people are just talking to themselves. And nothing will ever change if we don’t start talking to one another.”
“People even view grief through a partisan lens,” says Jake Tapper, who moderated the town hall. Tapper, who presided over the event with a noticeably light touch, accepts “legitimate” critiques and rejects complaints that, according to the Hollywood Reporter, he says, emanate from the “cottage industry of people who criticize CNN no matter what we do.”
“We’ve been doing town halls now for three or four years on every topic imaginable,” Zucker says. “And people think this was the first time we did it. This is actually part of what our brand has been the last three or four years. This is the obvious next step in it. I think the reaction to it is an indication of how engaged in this topic the country is, how divided the country is on it and how emotional it is for everyone.”