In the wake of a decision to cancel a second presidential debate, NBC News is among the news outlets exploring the possibility of holding a town hall with President Donald Trump that would take place on the same night — Oct. 15 — when the event had been planned, according to three people familiar with the matter.
Such a broadcast could potentially air opposite a similar town hall already scheduled between ABC News and former Vice President Joe Biden.
There is no finalized agreement, according to these people, and the ability to hold the event with Trump would likely hinge on participants adhering to appropriate health and safety practices.
The second presidential debate became a political hot potato, with the Trump and Biden campaigns disagreeing over a decision by the Commission on Presidential Debates to make the event “virtual” after Trump tested positive for coronavirus.
In a statement released Friday, the CPD said, “It is now apparent there will be no debate on October 15 and the CPD will turn its attention to preparations for the final presidential debate scheduled for October 22.”
NBC News declined to make executives available for comment.
It was not immediately clear if any of NBC News’ rivals had moved forward in negotiations. CNN, for example, has not had an interview with Trump since 2016. CBS News could not be reached for immediate comment. Fox News Channel enjoys regular access to the president, who in recent days has phoned in for interviews with Sean Hannity, “Fox & Friends,” and Maria Bartiromo. “We have reached out to both the Biden and Trump campaigns and offered to host town halls on Fox News,” said a network spokesperson.
The CPD indicated that, at present, it expected that its third debate would take place as scheduled on October 22. “Subject to health security considerations, and in accordance with all required testing, masking, social distancing and other protocols, the debate will take place at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee,” the Commission said in a statement. “As announced on June 23, the debate will be divided into six 15-minute segments. The topics for the six segments will be selected and announced by the moderator at least one week before the debate. Kristen Welker of NBC News will serve as moderator for the debate.” Both candidates have agreed to participate the CPD said.
A decision by NBC News to move forward with a Trump town hall would only intensify its rivalry with ABC News. The two battle each day for morning-news audiences with NBC’s “Today” and ABC’s “Good Morning America,” and for the evening-news crowd with NBC’s “Nightly News” and ABC’s “World News Tonight.” Both of the ABC programs are the most-watched in their category, while “Today” leads in viewers between 25 and 54, the demographic most coveted by advertisers. “World News” leads “Nightly” in that category.
It’s quite possible that the two town halls could air at different times. ABC News has yet to assign its Biden event a specific time slot.
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