The New Hampshire college that hosted Donald Trump’s CNN town hall has condemned the former president for the “deeply troubling” event.
Saint Anselm College criticised both the comments of the ex-president and the reactions to his statements by the Trump-friendly audience in the auditorium.
CNN moderator Kaitlan Collins asked Mr Trump about the civil trial between him and writer and former advice columnist E Jean Carroll. Mr Trump was found liable for sexual abuse and defamation and has been ordered to pay her $5m. Mr Trump was not found liable for rape. His legal team is appealing the verdict.
Mr Trump denied Ms Carroll’s allegation, to laughter from the crowd in the room.
“A Manhattan jury found you sexually abused the writer E Jean Carroll and defamed her. You’ve denied this. But what do you say to voters who say it disqualifies you from being president?” Ms Collins said.
“Well, there aren’t too many of them because my poll numbers just came out and they went up,” Mr Trump replied.
Mr Trump claimed that he doesn’t know who Ms Carroll is.
In a statement, Saint Anselm said: “The college was deeply troubled by the former President’s remarks regarding the civil trial with a finding that he was liable for sexual assault.
“Equally disturbing was the audience’s reaction, nearly all of whom were not members of the Saint Anselm community, with laughter. The college does not tolerate sexual misconduct of any kind, including sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking and sexual harassment.”
The college noted in its statement that “Saint Anselm has a long history of participation in the democratic process, with every major candidate for president since the 1960 election visiting the college”.
“Through the years the college has hosted hundreds of talks, town halls and other political events. The New Hampshire Institute of Politics, a nonpartisan center whose mission is to educate, engage and empower citizens to participate in civic and political life, is at the center of much of this activity,” the college added.
Dr Joseph Favazza, the college president, said: “We believe that an interchange of ideas and perspectives is the bedrock of an informed electorate, which is why we have enthusiastically and impartially hosted political events since the 1950s. Democracy depends on an educated citizenry. Here at Saint Anselm, we are proud to play an important and unique role in this regard.”
The college put forward a similar argument to CNN about hosting Mr Trump, saying that “While former President Trump faces legal trouble in several jurisdictions and continues inflammatory rhetoric, he is the current frontrunner in the Republican presidential race. At this moment, he is the likely Republican candidate to appear on the 2024 ballot”.
The institution added that considering its mission and history, “the college would betray its responsibility toward impartiality by turning away any major party candidate”.
Dr Favazza added: “For more than a generation, Saint Anselm has participated in the democratic process, underscoring our mission to provide a transformative education that fosters critical thinking skills for our students.”
“We look forward to hosting many more town halls, debates and other political events, as we once again play this important role for our community and our country,” he said.