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That being said, NBC News Group chairman Cesar Conde says in a statement that “we share in the frustration that our event will initially air alongside the first half of ABC’s broadcast with Vice President Biden,” adding, “Our decision is motivated only by fairness, not business considerations.”
The town hall will proceed as scheduled from 8-9 p.m. ET tonight.
In his statement Thursday, Conde further explained the rationale behind the decision: “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 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.”
At issue was the fact that NBC scheduled the town hall at the exact time that ABC News scheduled a town hall with former Vice President Joe Biden. Both events were scheduled after the second presidential debate — which was also supposed to be a town hall affair — was canceled by the Commission on Presidential Debates.
The backlash to NBC’s scheduling was swift, with former NBC News executives weighing in (former Nightly News ep and NBC News senior vp Cheryl Gould called it “a shameless grab for ratings!” on Facebook), current MSNBC talent (Rachel Maddow asked Sen. Kamala Harris last night, “Are you as mad as everybody else is that NBC is doing a town hall with President Trump tomorrow instead of the debate at the same time that Vice President Biden is going to be on ABC?”) and even some of Hollywood’s biggest names weighed in, including many associated with NBC.
In a letter to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell and NBC News Group chairman Cesar Conde, Hollywood heavyweights including J.J. Abrams, Ava DuVernay and Aaron Sorkin, alongside NBC partners like Law & Order veterans Chris Meloni and Mariska Hargitay, This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman and star Sterling K. Brown, wrote that “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 next official presidential debate remains on the calendar for Oct. 22. NBC News anchor and correspondent Kristen Welker is slated to be the moderator.
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