Tonight, in place of what was supposed to be the second presidential debate, ABC is airing a special town hall discussion with Joe Biden that will surely be a reasonable evening full of thoughtful, well-considered comments and a bit of folksy, exhaustively prepared Pennsylvania wisdom. After ABC announced its Joe Biden special, though, NBC announced a competing town hall discussion with Donald Trump that will also air tonight. At the same time. While that one will definitely be a nightmare train wreck and everyone in the world would be better off not watching it, it will also most likely have some more fireworks, and if you want to keep up with whatever thing everyone on Twitter is making fun of, you’ll probably have to watch it—which is the sort of disgusting “politics as entertainment” bullshit that got us into this mess in the first place, which is also exactly what NBC is counting on. Also: These separate town halls are only happening because Trump refused to do a virtual debate with Biden, presumably because a virtual debate would introduce the ability for him to be muted, and there’s a vein somewhere in his neck that wouldn’t be able to handle that kind of stress. NBC giving Trump his own special, competing directly with Biden’s, is exactly what he wanted.
So it’s all pretty gross, and NBC deserves every single drop of criticism it is receiving because of this. In fact, it’s so gross that over 100 entertainment industry people—including writers, actors, directors, and producers, some of them quite famous—have signed a letter to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell, and NBCU News Group boss Cesar Conde asking them to move Trump’s event to a different time slot so it’s not going right up against the Biden one. Here’s the full letter, via Deadline, along with the names of the signers:
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 NBC Universal 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 8pm, 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.
Aaron Sorkin, Abbi Jacobson, Adam McKay, Adam Scott, Alex Barnow, Allison Janney, Allison Tolman, Amy Lippman, Amy Schumer, Aubrey Plaza, Ava DuVernay, Ayelet Waldman, Ben Stiller, Billy Eichner, Billy Porter, Brendan Gall, Chelsea Handler, Chris Bishop, Chris Meloni, Chris Miller, Chris Misiano, Chris Sullivan, Chrissy Metz, Courtney Kemp, Dahvi Waller, Damon Lindelof, Dan Fogelman, Daniel Hageman, David A. Goodman, David Goyer, David Guggenheim, David Kohan, Debra Messing, Donald Faison, Ely Henry, Emily Gordon, Eric Guggeheim, Greg Berlanti, JJ Abrams, Jason Moore, Jennifer Yale, Jill Knox, Jim Parriott, Joe Mantello, Jon Cryer, Jon Hamm, Jon Huertas, Josh Gad, Josh Singer, Joss Whedon, Julianne Moore, Julie Martin, Julie Plec, Justin Hartley, Keith Powell, Ken Olin, Kenya Barris, Kevin Hageman, Kumail Nanjiani, Laeta Kalogridis, Latoya Morgan, Mandy Moore, Marc Guggenheim, Marjorie David, Mariska Hargitay, Marti Noxon, Martin Gero, Matthew Lopez, Max Mutchnick, Michael Chabon, Michael Green, Malcolm Spellman, Michele Fazekas, Milo Ventimiglia, Neal Baer, Nicholas Stoller, Nicole Yorkin, Otmara Marrero, Parvesh Cheena, Patton Oswalt, Phil Lord, Preacher Lawson, Robert king, Robert Kirkman, Ryan Murphy, Samuel Baum, Sarah Schechter, Sarah Silverman, Sarah Treem, Seth Grahame-Smith, Seth MacFarlane, Seth Rogen, Shakina Nayfack, Sophia Bush, Sterling K. Brown, Sunil Nayir, Susan Kelechi Watson, Tara Butters, Terry Matalas, Thor Freudenthal, Tom McCarthy, Tony Kushner, Travis Beacham, Vanessa Taylor, Zoe Lister-Jones
Unfortunately, despite this being a reunion of Chris Meloni and Mariska Hargitay (who have done so much for NBC’s bottom line), Conde has already offered up an asinine rebuttal: “Our decision is motivated only by fairness, not business considerations… 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.” Ah yes, fairness. To the guy who has overseen the deaths of 217,000 Americans from COVID-19, put children in cages, and Jesus H. Christ do we have to list this stuff in every goddamn news story? Conde also noted that NBC aired a town hall with Biden on October 5 and argues that moving the Trump thing would be a violation of their “commitment to offer both campaigns access to the same audience and the same forum,” but that doesn’t mean it has to air a Trump show at the same time as a Biden one. Saying that’s anything but business is insulting, especially when Conde ended his statement by plugging Peacock and NBC’s YouTube channel with a note about how the Trump town hall will be available there for free any time.
The Conde quotes come from The Wrap, and what he doesn’t seem to recognize or care about is that this is what happens to Trump every single time. He refuses to do something completely reasonable, throws a fit about it, and then gets what he wants in the end because organizations like NBC refuse to hold him accountable or make him face any consequences. If he wins, it’ll be because of stuff like pretending that “fairness” is important in an election where one side is overly dedicated to following the rules and the other side would be fine sitting in a bunker until the human race was extinct as long as they could still say they were in charge. But sure, “fairness.”
We should also note that you can do your part in preventing Trump from getting the attention he needs to survive by not watching the NBC town hall, but we all know you’re not going to do that, right? We’ve all got to get our Twitter likes somehow.