Some of Hollywood’s biggest stars demanded NBC move Thursday night’s scheduled town hall with President Donald Trump. Ben Stiller, Amy Schumer, J.J. Abrams and Julianne Moore are among those outraged over the company’s decision to air the president’s event directly opposite former Vice President Joe Biden’s town hall on ABC.
“This is not a partisan issue. This is about the political health of our democracy,” a petition, signed by more than 100 industry heavyweights, reads.
“President Trump refused to participate in the virtual debate scheduled for Thursday night by the Presidential Debate Commission,” the letter continues. “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.”
After President Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis, it was announced the second presidential debate scheduled for Oct. 15 would be held virtually due to coronavirus concerns. The president bowed out, so the Biden campaign said the Democratic nominee would instead participate in a town hall on ABC. Trump’s town hall was announced on Wednesday. NBC has a long relationship with the president as it was the home network of The Apprentice.
The petition has been sent to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, NBCUniversal chairman Jeff Shell and NBCUniversal News Group chairman Cesar Conde. Some of NBC’s top talent have signed it, including, Law & Order: SVU’s Mariska Hargitay, Christopher Meloni — who is reprising his role as Elliott Stabler in the new show Law & Order: Organized Crime — and This Is Us stars Sterling K. Brown, Mandy Moore, Chrissy Metz and Milo Ventimiglia.
The hourlong town hall with Trump begins at 8 p.m. ET, directly conflicting with the first hour of Biden’s 90-minute event on NBC’s rival network.
“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,” the petition stats. “We understand the necessities of business, especially in this difficult time. But we believe there are larger issues of civic responsibility at stake here.”
NBC was criticized by journalists and employees, both current and former, after announcing the timing of Trump’s town hall. Katie Couric tweeted it was a “bad decision” to create dueling town halls, writing, “This will be good for Trump because people like to watch his unpredictability.”
Having dueling town halls is bad for democracy-voters should be able to watch both and I don’t think many will. This will be good for Trump because people like to watch his unpredictability. This is a bad decision. #vote
— Katie Couric (@katiecouric) October 14, 2020
“The point of a news organization is to serve the public. This is the opposite,” Vivian Schiller, former NBC News chief digital officer, tweeted. “[NBC News] could literally run this any other day, or any other time. Shameful.”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who starred on Seinfeld for its nine season run on NBC, tweeted Thursday calling for a #NBCBlackout.
Read the letter in full below:
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 NBCUniversal 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 8 p.m., 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.
David A. Goodman
Sterling K. Brown
Susan Kelechi Watson
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