President Donald Trump attacked NBC News at length during a campaign rally in North Carolina on Thursday, hours before he’s set to appear in a town hall hosted by the network.
Trump said he was being “set up” with the event and called the network “the worst” before moving on to attacking NBC’s on-air talent, including Savannah Guthrie, who is set to moderate.
“They asked me if I’d do it,” Trump told the crowd. “I figured, ‘What the hell — we’ll get a free hour of television.’”
“We have Savannah Guthrie — she’s always lovely, isn’t she?” he added sarcastically. “But I figure, why not?”
NBC announced the event Wednesday, a week after ABC News announced it would host a town hall with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
The televised events are taking place at the same time, and are in lieu of the previously scheduled presidential debate, which was supposed to be a town hall with voters in Miami. Trump refused to participate in the second debate after the Commission on Presidential Debates adopted an all-virtual format, a safety precaution put in place after Trump tested positive for COVID-19.
NBC and corporate parent Comcast have received withering criticism for scheduling the Trump town hall so it competes with Biden’s.
“The point of a news organization is to serve the public,” tweeted former NBC News executive Vivian Schiller. “This is the opposite. NBC News could literally run this any other day, or any other time. Shameful.”
More than 100 top-tier showrunners and producers also protested the decision in a petition sent to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, NBCUniversal Chairman Jeff Shell and NBCUniversal News Group Chairman Cesar Conde, urging the network to find a new time slot so Americans could watch both candidates.
A letter accompanying the petition argued, in part:
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.
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