“We want to say right off the top this is not how things were supposed to go tonight,” the Today co-anchor said at the top of the debate. “This was supposed to be a town hall debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, but after the president contracted COVID, the debate Commission announced that it would have to be a virtual debate because of health concerns.”
Guthrie went on to say the president refused to participate in a virtual debate and as a result, Democratic candidate Joe Biden scheduled his own town hall from Pennsylvania on ABC tonight. She wrapped her recap acknowledging that Trump followed up with his own similar event, taking questions from voters in Miami who are socially distanced and masked.
“Now the President is doing the same,” Guthrie said. “His own town hall with the same venue format and time as the announced town hall with Joe Biden last week, so the two candidates go head to head tonight, though not face to face, each in a key battleground states tonight.”
NBC News drew fire Wednesday after announcing a town hall with Trump at the same time as Joe Biden’s on ABC News, which had already been scheduled following the president backing out of the virtual debate with Biden on Oct. 15, following his COVID-19 diagnosis. Former and current NBC employees have come out against the move, arguing that the network was shamelessly seeking ratings instead of supporting his engagement with his 2020 presidential-race rival.
The debate moderator and Today co-anchor then launched straight into asking the president about his COVID-19 diagnosis and his most recent test, which his health team reported was negative. Trump told Guthrie that he had “no symptoms whatsoever” and that he feels “great” and “good” before noting his rally today in North Carolina.
When asked by Guthrie whether he had taken a test the day of the first presidential debate, Trump waffled, stating, “Possibly I did, possibly I didn’t,” deferring a little later on to his health team, stating, “The doctor will give you a perfect answer.” The moderator then went on to question him about his treatment at the Walter Reed Medical Center earlier this month and whether he had contracted pneumonia, to which Trump responded that he “didn’t feel good.”
“I didn’t feel strong. I had a little bit of a temperature,” he said. “They said the lungs are a little bit different, a little bit infected.” He then quickly walked the comment back, stating, “I didn’t have much of a problem with the lungs. I did have a little bit of a temperature.”
NBC’s Trump town hall opening was much more excited than that of Biden’s, which kicked off over on ABC News at the same time and features both Trump and Biden voters, with no comment on the other town hall.