Politics

NBC Roasted For Hosting Trump Town Hall At Same Time As Biden’s

“There is no good reason to hold these events simultaneously.”

Joe Biden and Donald Trump at the first presidential debate at the Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio on September 29, 2020. | Getty Images
Joe Biden and Donald Trump at the first presidential debate at the Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio on September 29, 2020. | Getty Images

NBC is facing blowback after announcing it will host a town hall with President Trump on Thursday night, during the same time slot as a previously planned town hall with Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden that will air on ABC.

The second presidential debate, which was slated for October 15 in Miami, was cancelled following Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis and refusal to commit to a virtual debate to ensure the safety of both candidates. Biden then committed to participating in an ABC News town hall in Philadelphia the same day the second presidential debate was supposed to take place.

Journalists, activists, and celebrities criticized the television network after it announced on Wednesday the last-minute dueling town hall, which many argue gives Trump unfiltered airtime.

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“First “The Apprentice” and now this. Why not a new Bill Cosby special while we’re at it? There is no good reason to hold these events simultaneously. They could delay them.” talk show host Jimmy Kimmel said during his late night monologue on ABC Wednesday night.

The Wednesday announcement even received criticism from current and former NBC staff. Besides forcing viewers to watch one candidate live, NBC has been accused of playing a ratings game with its competitor ABC. 

Even so, the first presidential debate viewership significantly exceeded both candidates’ town halls this fall at a reported 73 million. An earlier Biden town hall got 6.7 million viewers compared to 3.8 million viewers of a Trump town hall, USA Today reported.

“Having dueling town halls is bad for democracy-voters should be able to watch both and I don’t think many will,”  former NBC "Today" show co-anchor Katie Couric said on Twitter Wednesday. “This will be good for Trump because people like to watch his unpredictability. This is a bad decision. #vote.”

MSNBC host Rachel Maddow asked during a Wednesday interview whether vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris was “as mad as everybody else” about the debate. 
 
“I’m not touching that,” Harris responded.

“The point of a news organization is to serve the public,” former NBC executive Vivian Schiller, wrote on Twitter. “This is the opposite.”

While much of Trump’s re-election campaign strategy has rested on attacking his opponent Biden, a town hall sets the president up in a rare format of taking questions directly from voters. Comparatively, Biden is known for the political skill of expressing empathy, and he frequently broke the fourth wall during the first presidential debate to directly address Americans. 

Both town halls will air at 8 p.m. EST. ABC will match its previous town hall for Trump at 90 minutes for Biden, while NBC’s town hall will be 60 minutes.