Joe Biden's Thursday night town hall came out ahead of Donald Trump's in the ratings battle. Despite NBC's controversial decision to schedule a town hall with Trump opposite Biden's previously scheduled town hall on ABC, the former vice president still managed to bring in more viewers than the former host of The Apprentice.
Viewership numbers, released Friday, show that Biden's town hall drew an average of 14.1 million viewers on ABC, according to Variety. Trump's town hall was watched by a total of 13.5 million viewers on NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC combined.
The Republican incumbent and his Democratic challenger were originally scheduled to face off in their second presidential debate on Thursday, but the event was canceled after Trump refused to participate in the virtual format despite concerns about his COVID-19 diagnosis.
In place of the debate, ABC arranged a town hall with Biden, moderated by George Stephanopoulos. NBC drew criticism after announcing its own town hall with Trump, moderated by Savannah Guthrie and scheduled to air at the same time as Biden's. A lengthy list of stars signed an open letter saying the network was "enabling the president's bad behavior while undercutting the Presidential Debate Commission and doing a disservice to the American public." The celebrities who signed included the cast of NBC's This Is Us, Mariska Hargitay, Aaron Sorkin, J.J. Abrams, Ryan Murphy, Ava DuVernay, Allison Janney, and more.
In response, NBC released a statement defending the decision. "We share in the frustration that our event will initially air alongside the first half of ABC's broadcast with Vice President Biden," said Cesar Conde, the chairman of NBCUniversal News Group. "Our decision is motivated only by fairness, not business considerations. We aired a town hall with Vice President Biden on October 5 at 8pm. 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."