WASHINGTON, DC — America got two for the price of one Thursday night as President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger former Vice President Joe Biden held dueling town halls instead of the debate that was supposed to take place this week.
But not everyone was happy about it.
Trump held his event in Miami, where he took questions from Florida voters during an outdoor town hall meeting hosted by NBC News.
Biden’s event, hosted by ABC News, took place at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.
Both were scheduled to start at 8 p.m. ET.
The switch to town halls followed a recent decision by the Presidential Debate Committee to shift the second presidential debate, originally scheduled Thursday night, to a virtual format. The committee made the call after Trump announced he tested positive for the COVID-19 virus two days after the first debate in Cleveland.
Following the announcement, the Biden campaign agreed to the terms, but Trump said he would not take part in the debate if it was held virtually.
“I'm not going to do a virtual debate," Trump told Fox Business during an interview. "No, I'm not going to waste my time with a virtual debate."
After the president’s remarks, Biden said he would move forward with a town hall event where he would directly answer voter questions.
The next day, the committee instead opted to cancel the event entirely.
Though Trump indicated he would potentially hold a rally for supporters in place of attending the debate, this week — a day before Biden’s scheduled town hall — the Trump campaign announced he would also hold a town hall for voters, and that it would take place at the same time as Biden’s event.
Trump’s town hall was hosted by NBC News — which, in the hours following the announcement, received significant backlash for its decision to schedule the event at the same time as Biden's town hall on ABC.
New York Times media columnist Ben Smith said Thursday there was pressure mounting on NBC News to make its town hall with Trump a "nightmare."
The choice was widely condemned by those associated with NBC. Former NBC staffers to broadcast journalists inside the network to even ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel expressed discomfort about the choice.
A roster of NBC talent also created and signed an open letter to the network, demanding it change its plans for the town hall, Vanity Fair reported.
“Law & Order'' franchise stars Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni; “This Is Us” actors Sterling K. Brown, Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia; and former prominent NBC performers including Debra Messing, Allison Janney and Aubrey Plaza were among the more than 100 celebrities who signed the letter to NBCUniversal.
“This is not a partisan issue,” the letter read. “This is about the political health of our democracy.”