Some of the biggest names in Hollywood are urging NBC News to move its Thursday town hall with President Donald Trump as the network receives backlash for hosting it at the same time as an event with Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
On Wednesday, NBC News announced it will host the one-hour event with Trump in Miami at 8 p.m. Thursday. ABC News announced its own plans for an 8 p.m. town hall with Biden in Philadelphia last week.
The candidates were originally scheduled participate in what would have been their second presidential debate Thursday, but Trump backed out after the Commission on Presidential Debates announced the event would be held virtually due to COVID-19 safety reasons.
A group of more than 100 actors, producers, directors and writers signed an open letter — obtained by multiple media outlets — to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff and NBCUniversal News Group chairman Cesar Conde asking that Trump’s town hall be rescheduled so Americans can have the option to watch both live.
“This is not a partisan issue. This is about the political health of our democracy,” the letter reads, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The letter, also obtained by Deadline, said hosting the event at the same time as Biden’s is “doing a disservice to the American public” and “enabling the president’s bad behavior.”
“President Trump refused to participate in the virtual debate scheduled for Thursday night by the Presidential Debate Commission,” it says.
Among the letter’s signees are J.J. Abrams, Aaron Sorkin, “Law & Order: SVU” star Mariska Hargitay, creators and actors of the hit show “This Is Us,” among others.
“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,” the letter says, according to Variety. “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.”
It goes on to say the group was “devastated” to hear about the competing town hall plans.
NBC said in a statement to The Associated Press that it wanted to give Trump the same format and time slot that Biden had on NBC last week.
“The Trump campaign did not dictate or request the time slot nor express any preference,” it said in the statement, according to the AP.
Conde said in a statement to Deadline that “we share in the frustration” over the events being held at the same time.
“Our decision is motivated only by fairness, not business considerations,” the statement says. “We aired a town hall with Vice President Biden on October 5 at 8 p.m. If we were to move our town hall with President Trump to a later timeslot we would be violating our commitment to offer both campaigns access to the same audience and the same forum.”
NBC News has faced other criticism for the decision to host the event at the same time as Biden’s.
Rachel Maddow, a host on MSNBC, asked Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris on Wednesday if she is “as mad as everybody else is” about Trump’s town hall.
“I’m not touching that,” Harris responded.
CNN’s Don Lemon said Wednesday he “cannot believe that NBC would do this.”
“It’s a complete rating ploy,” he said. “You should be embarrassed NBC.”
Some took to Twitter about the town hall. On Wednesday, #boycottNBC was trending and on Thursday #NBCblackout was trending, with users saying they will refuse to watch Trump’s town hall and plan to watch Biden’s instead.