NBC News is facing significant blowback for its decision to schedule a town hall featuring President Donald Trump opposite a similar event starring Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, on ABC — and some leftists are even accusing the network of colluding and conspiring with Trump’s campaign.
The Commission on Presidential Debates demanded, last week, that the October 15th matchup between Trump and Biden be “virtual,” because the president was still battling COVID-19. Biden agreed to the format but Trump did not, and the event was canceled. Biden immediately rescheduled himself for his own, individual, town hall event on ABC to be held on October 15th, with Trump promising a campaign rally instead.
Earlier this week, though, after both the White House physician, Dr. Sean Conley, and White House coronavirus task for leader Dr. Anthony Fauci declared Trump not contagious, the Trump campaign and NBC announced that the two parties had agreed to hold a town hall event for the president in Florida, opposite Biden’s ABC special.
Democrats, media figures, and left-leaning commentators melted down almost immediately.
“I’ve heard from over a dozen NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC sources (talent and staff) and the frustration with and anger toward their employer for scheduling a town hall against Biden is palpable,” commentator Yashar Ali tweeted.
“The decision by NBC News to run a Trump town hall directly opposite ABC’s Biden town hall is indefensible,” added columnist Jeff Greenfield.
Katie Couric called the decision, “bad for democracy:” “Having dueling town halls is bad for democracy-voters should be able to watch both and I don’t think many will. This will be good for Trump because people like to watch his unpredictability. This is a bad decision.”
Insiders speaking anonymously to Fox News even called the decision shameful.
“NBC is doing a real disservice to American voters who won’t get to hear from both candidates,” one ABC News inside source told the network. “They should be ashamed of failing in their public service duty three weeks before a presidential election to chase ratings instead.”
The New York Times, which spoke to NBC, noted that the matchup happened not because the Trump campaign wanted to air their town hall opposite Biden’s, but because the slot fit with both NBC’s and the president’s schedule. The earlier time slot (8 EST/7 CST) also means that, theoretically, Trump and Biden would draw similar audience numbers. By moving the time slot back to 9 or 10 pm EST, the president might command a larger share of the viewing audience that Biden would at 8 pm.
“NBC executives have insisted that the date was their choice, the people said, and that Thursday fit the president’s schedule: Because of the now-canceled second debate, Mr. Trump’s evening was free,” The New York Times reported.
CNN’s Brian Stetler did note Thursday, though, that NBC officials contacted ABC asking that network to move their Biden event back an hour to help limit competition. ABC reportedly said no.
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