NBC News is not backing down amid calls to move President Trump’s town hall on Thursday night.
NBCUniversal News Group chairman Cesar Conde said in a statement that the decision to air Trump’s town hall at the same time as Vice President Biden’s was not a decision motivated by business.
“We share in the frustration that our event will initially air alongside the first half of ABC’s broadcast with Vice President Biden. Our decision is motivated only by fairness, not business considerations. We aired a town hall with Vice President Biden on October 5 at 8pm. If we were to move our town hall with President Trump to a later time slot we would be violating our commitment to offer both campaigns access to the same audience and the same forum. We hope voters will watch both discussions — ours will be available at any time, free and on-demand on YouTube, Peacock and all our digital news platforms,” said Conde.
Trump took a shot at NBC and Comcast during a rally in Greenville, N.C., calling his town hall a “free hour of television” and that the entire event is a “con job.”
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“You know, I’m being set up tonight. I’m doing this town hall with ‘Concast,’ because it’s a con job…It’s NBC, the worst. Home of sleepy-eyes Chuck Todd…They asked me if I’d do it. I figured ‘What the hell, we’ve got a free hour of television.’ And we have Savannah Guthrie, she’s always lovely, isn’t she? But I figured why not?” Trump said.
"She's toying with those Democrat, evil people. They're evil" — Trump on Amy Coney Barrett pic.twitter.com/NDbjM4DqPC
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) October 15, 2020
On Thursday morning, more than 100 Hollywood actors, directors, producers and showrunners sent a petition to NBCUniversal and Comcast executives protesting the timing the town hall. The hashtag #NBCBlackout was a top trend on Twitter, and several actors, including Conan O’Brien, Jim Carrey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Barbra Streisand, called out NBC on social media.
I can’t remember the last time I was this shocked by an NBC programming decision.
— Conan O'Brien (@ConanOBrien) October 15, 2020
There is a black hole on @NBC tonight. Tune in to @ABC at 8pm and watch a decent man deliver a safe way forward for this country. You can see the raging howler monkey-in-chief’s delusional and steroid fueled fails later on YouTube and, of course, all white supremacist websites. pic.twitter.com/xrpLnu4N5n
— Jim Carrey (@JimCarrey) October 15, 2020
The lengthy list of petition signees includes Ava DuVernay, J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, Aaron Sorkin, several cast members of NBC’s “This Is Us” and many more who have worked with NBCUniversal at some point. The protest letter was addressed to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, NBCUniversal chairman Jeff Shell and Conde.
“We have always thought of NBCUniversal as both a terrific creative home and a brand that stands for the best in entertainment and broadcast journalism. This is why we have been devastated to learn that you have chosen to air President Trump’s town hall this Thursday night at 8 p.m., directly opposite Vice President Biden’s town hall,” the letter says. “This is not a partisan issue. This is about the political health of our democracy.”
NBC’s decision to air Trump’s town hall came after the president refused to participate in the second debate against Biden. Both nominees elected to host their own virtual town halls, with ABC first announcing Biden’s event for Thursday at 8 p.m. and Trump and NBC following suit at the same time.
“President Trump refused to participate in the virtual debate scheduled for Thursday night by the Presidential Debate Commission,” the letter says. “By agreeing to air his town hall as counterprogramming opposite Vice President Biden’s town hall on ABC, you are enabling the President’s bad behavior while undercutting the Presidential Debate Commission and doing a disservice to the American public.”
See the full letter below.
To Brian Roberts, Jeff Shell and Cesar Conde:
We are a group of writers, actors, directors and producers. Many of us have been lucky enough to work for NBCUniversal at some point in our careers. Some of us are currently employed at your studio. We have always thought of NBCUniversal as both a terrific creative home and a brand that stands for the best in entertainment and broadcast journalism.
This is why we have been devastated to learn that you have chosen to air President Trump’s town hall this Thursday night at 8 p.m., directly opposite Vice President Biden’s town hall.
This is not a partisan issue. This is about the political health of our democracy.
President Trump refused to participate in the virtual debate scheduled for Thursday night by the Presidential Debate Commission. By agreeing to air his town hall as counterprogramming opposite Vice President Biden’s town hall on ABC, you are enabling the President’s bad behavior while undercutting the Presidential Debate Commission and doing a disservice to the American public.
We believe this kind of indifference to the norms and rules of our democracy are what have brought our country to this perilous state.
We are simply asking that NBC air the President’s town hall either before or after Vice President Biden’s so that American voters can have the opportunity to watch both.
We understand the necessities of business, especially in this difficult time. But we believe there are larger issues of civic responsibility at stake here.
David A. Goodman
Sterling K. Brown
Susan Kelechi Watson