NEWS: CNN, MSNBC go head-to-head in two nights of town halls
Donald Trump has proven to be a ratings machine during this election cycle, and MSNBC is hoping to cash in.
CNN will be facing a direct challenge from NBC’s sister station during its GOP town hall events, scheduled to take place over the next two nights. Tonight’s forum will host Marco Rubio, Ben Carson and Ted Cruz, while tomorrow’s event will see John Kasich share the stage Donald Trump and Jeb Bush, two candidates who have been engaged in a months-long public sparring session during which (if poll numbers are any indicator) Trump has helped cement his status as a top-tier candidate while publicly demeaning the once-projected frontrunner.
Trump, however, will have a spotlight to himself tonight as political feuds take place alongside media battles; MSNBC has decided to go head-to-head with CNN by broadcasting a Trump-only forum opposite CNN’s first GOP town hall. MSNBC will also host a Democratic town hall with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders on Thursday night.
Perhaps even more interestingly, the Trump event will be moderated by “Morning Joe” hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, who found themselves under scrutiny earlier this week when CNN’s Dylan Byers reported that the two “hung out” in Trump’s hotel room after the New Hampshire primary. Byers released his report shortly after Trump ended a “Morning Joe” interview by calling Scarborough and Brzezinski “supporters.” Scarborough denied the claims before MSNBC issued a public statement defending him and subsequently announced their Trump event.
Challenging CNN in such a way is a bold move by MSNBC, which boasts an evening lineup of progressive hosts who typically manage major election events. Scarborough, a former Republican congressman who is the network’s only longtime conservative host, has remained in a morning slot since joining the network in 2007. While he has also been featured during election coverage, he is typically outnumbered by the likes of Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews and Chris Hayes.
Although MSNBC and Scarborough may attempt to prove their detractors wrong by holding Trump’s feet to the fire tonight, one can only assume this surprising move is motivated by the desire for a much-needed ratings boost. It has never been unusual for MSNBC to lag behind CNN during breaking news coverage, but the self-described “place for politics” was finishing solidly ahead of CNN in the ratings this time during the 2012 election; this year, CNN’s New Hampshire primary coverage outdrew MSNBC’s by about a million viewers.