NBC to Host Trump Town Hall Exactly the Same Time as Biden’s

After bailing on a virtual debate, the president’s petulance is rewarded.

Oliver Contreras/ZUMA

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Donald Trump, whose trademark petulance was on full display when he abruptly bailed out of the second presidential debate last week, now appears to have been rewarded with an opportunity to divide voters and potentially trample on Joe Biden.

On Wednesday, NBC News announced that it would host a town hall special with the president from Miami, Florida, where he’ll face questions from a group of socially-distanced voters. The outdoor event will be televised Thursday at 8 p.m. EST, the same time slot that rival ABC had already planned to air a Biden town hall after the president’s refusal to participate in a virtual debate. (The debate commission, of course, had decided on that format just days after Trump and members of his staff announced that they had tested positive for the coronavirus.) Now, amid the chaotic back-and-forth, voters will be forced to choose between the two candidates. 

The last-minute television showdown, which comes as Trump continues to slip in the polls, is all but certain to infuriate the Biden camp. It follows Trump’s rejection of a virtual format, having bashed it as “pathetic” and a “waste of time” last week, which eventually prompted the commission to cancel the debate altogether. But with the NBC special, Trump appears to have replaced a chance to face off with Biden with an even more attractive opportunity to pull viewers away from his opponent. The scenario is likely to draw more viewers to a president whose ability to attract ratings is one of the only consistent features in an otherwise stunningly erratic presidency. 

This late into the election, it’s hard to approach NBC’s decision as anything but a play for viewers, even as the network appeared to defend the scheduling as an effort to mirror the same time slot it had given to Biden for an October 5 town hall. But as critics have pointed out, the network apparently failed to recognize that dueling town halls could needlessly divide voters. 

But while NBC can take a preemptive victory lap, a ratings bump may not correlate to a boost in Trump’s standing in the polls. His last town-hall-style event, where he stumbled, prevaricated, and lied through his meeting with undecided voters, bombed. That was less than a month ago, both before his first disastrous debate performance and testing positive for the coronavirus, and things have only gotten much worse. 

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Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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