What to make of the predictable hour-long rant from former president Donald J. Trump?

The event was the so-called “town hall” that CNN held on Wednesday night, and the first meaningful media event of the 2024 US election cycle. It was also significantly the first time Donald Trump had appeared on the network in about seven years. Things have changed substantially since back then. A pandemic has been and gone, Capitol Hill has been rioted, and Trump has lost an election. CNN has also experienced change, with Chris Licht becoming its CEO and bringing with him a new determination to make the network more attractive to Republicans who had previously deserted the channel.

Trump’s appearance was meant to be both good for Trump and (in theory) good for CNN, but only if you weren’t one of those who believe that US networks should not give airtime to Trump. It was just a few years since it was common wisdom that the mistakes of 2016 would not be allowed to happen again. Networks had stopped carrying Trump rallies and introduced new fact-checking mechanisms to combat the steady stream of lies and falsehoods.