Many people expressed outrage across social media Wednesday after NBC announced that the network will host a town hall with President Donald Trump Thursday night at the exact time that ABC is hosting a town hall with former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee.
As ESSENCE previously reported, the Commission on Presidential Debates canceled the second presidential debate, which was scheduled for Oct. 15, after Trump, who tested positive for COVID-19, rejected the idea of a virtual debate, claiming that there was “no medical reason” for such a pivot and that it would be a “waste of time.”
ABC announced the Biden town hall after the Commission made its announcement.
The Trump town hall, moderated by NBC’s Savannah Guthrie, is taking place at 8:00 p.m. EST Thursday at the Pérez Art Museum in Miami. The Biden town hall, moderated by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, is taking place at 8:00 p.m. EST Thursday at Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center.
People flocked to Twitter to express their outrage. And it wasn’t long before Hollywood entered the chat.
According to Deadline, more than 100 writers, actors, directors and producers wrote an open letter to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell, and NBCU News Group chairman Cesar Conde, asking that NBC move the Trump town hall to another day or time slot. Among those who signed the letter are Ava DuVernay, Kenya Barris, and Courtney Kemp.
“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,” the open letter said. “We believe this kind of indifference to the norms and rules of our democracy are what have brought our country to this perilous state.”
Despite the outcry, NBC honchos say the show must go on.
“We share in the frustration that our event will initially air alongside the first half of ABC’s broadcast with Vice President Biden,” Conde said in a statement. “Our decision is motivated only by fairness, not business considerations. We aired a town hall with Vice President Biden on October 5 at 8 pm. If we were to move our town hall with President Trump to a later timeslot 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.”