On Thursday, more than 100 actors, writers, directors and producers sent a letter to top Comcast and NBC officials asking them to shift the event from its timeslot.
The backlash comes after Trump refused to participate in a virtual town hall debate with Biden, long scheduled for Oct. 15, forcing the Commission on Presidential Debates to cancel the event. As the Trump campaign expressed its opposition to the format, Biden agreed to an ABC News town hall last week.
Rachel Maddow on Wednesday even asked her guest, vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris, about it.
“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?” Maddow asked.
“I’m not touching that,” Harris said, after chuckling a bit at the question. Maddow then laughed.
Maddow then asked, “Should the networks refuse to give the president other opportunities for airtime, if he’s the one who refuses the chance to debate?”
“I’m not going to tell the networks what to do, but I’ll tell you I know who I’m going to be watching, so there you go,” Harris answered.
The criticism of NBC News is not just that it is giving Trump airtime after he refused to agree to the virtual town hall debate, but that the network scheduled its event to start at the same time as the ABC event, 8 PM ET on Thursday. ABC News set its plans last week.
NBC News has insisted that they wanted to do the exact same format, duration and time slot as an Oct. 5 Biden town hall.
What is unclear is why the network could not have scheduled its event on another night. Networks do jump at the times when candidates are available, but Trump has been flooding the zone with media appearances, often on conservative outlets. Last week, he spent two hours with Rush Limbaugh for a “virtual rally.”
In a series of tweets, Carl Bernstein, the legendary journalist and frequent commentator on CNN, wrote, “How is that NBC News has allowed itself to get conned by Donald Trump and (as of 11 pm Wednesday) continues to abrogate the public trust by not re-scheduling or taping-and-delaying broadcast, or canceling if Trump continues to demand the network’s obeisance? ”
NBC News said that the Trump campaign “did not dictate or request the time slot nor express any preference.”
The network did insist on health precautions for its event, as it wanted assurances that Trump had tested negative. The National Institutes of Health’s Dr. Clifford Lane said in a statement that he and Dr. Anthony Fauci reviewed the president’s medical records and concluded “with a high degree of confidence” that the president is “not shedding infectious virus.”