Get your DVR ready.
President President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden will take part in dueling town halls Thursday night, filling the void left by a discarded presidential debate Trump declined to participate in after organizers moved it to a virtual event.
The nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates made the decision to change the format for the second debate after Trump contracted coronavirus. Trump dismissed the idea of participating in a virtual town hall immediately, saying during a call-in to Fox Business, “I’m not going to waste my time.”
Instead, the two separate town halls will begin at 8 p.m. Eastern — Biden’s will take place in Philadelphia at the National Constitution Center and air on ABC, while Trump’s will occur outdoors in Florida at Pérez Art Museum Miami and air on NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC.
ABC announced its 8 p.m. start time on Saturday, while NBC didn’t finalize its plans until late Tuesday night, according to network sources. As a result, NBC received a lot of criticism on Wednesday over the town hall overlap, including from former NBC News executives Mark Lukasiewicz and Vivian Schiller, who called the move “shameful" on Twitter.
MSNBC opinion host Rachel Maddow also hinted at the displeasure internally on her show Wednesday night, asking Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif), “Are you as mad as everybody else is that NBC is doing a town hall with President Trump tomorrow instead of the debate, at the same time that Vice President Biden’s going to be on ABC?”
“I’m not touching that," a laughing Harris responded.
In a statement, NBCUniversal News Group Chairman Cesar Conde said the decision to schedule Trump’s town hall for the exact same time as Biden’s was based solely on “fairness” and no other business considerations.
“We aired a town hall with Vice President Biden on October 5 at 8 p.m.," Conde said. “If we were to move our town hall with President Trump to a later timeslot we would be violating our commitment to offer both campaign access to the same audience and the same forum.”
Moderating Biden’s town hall on ABC is longtime anchor and Good Morning America cohost George Stephanopoulos, who also moderated Trump’s Philadelphia town hall on the network last month. About 21 voters from across Pennsylvania will offer questions to Biden, according to the network.
Meanwhile, NBC is turning to Today cohost Savannah Guthrie, who will moderate the event featuring 60 Florida voters — some undecided, some leaning toward one of the two candidates.
One thing’s for sure: neither town hall will bring in anywhere near the audience of the first presidential debate last month, which drew over 73 million viewers, according to Nielsen.
Here’s everything you need to know to watch and stream the dueling town halls:
The Trump and Biden campaigns agreed to three debates during the 2020 election. The first was held in Cleveland last month, moderated by Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace. The second, which was scheduled to take place tonight in Miami, Fla., was canceled after Trump refused to take part in a virtual town hall moderated by C-SPAN Political Editor Steve Scully.