Updated: NBC has responded to the letter a large group of celebrities signed urging the network to move the time of Trump's town hall. Cesar Conde, the chairman of NBCUniversal News Group, said in a statement that the town hall would go on as planned and insisted the decision to air it was "motivated only by fairness, not business considerations."
"We share in the frustration that our event will initially air alongside the first half of ABC's broadcast with Vice President Biden," Conde's statement reads. "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. We hope voters will watch both discussions — ours will be available at any time, free and on-demand on YouTube, Peacock and all our digital news platforms."
In an open letter shared by Deadline, a group of actors, producers, writers, and directors are urging the network to move Trump's town hall before or after Biden's. The lengthy list of stars who signed the letter include the cast of NBC'sThis Is Us, Mariska Hargitay, Aaron Sorkin, J.J. Abrams, Ryan Murphy, Ava DuVernay, Allison Janney, and more.
News of Trump's town hall came after the debate commission canceled the second presidential debate, which was initially scheduled for Oct. 15, when Trump refused to participate in the virtual format that had been arranged in light of his COVID-19 diagnosis. Following the debate's cancellation, ABC scheduled a town hall with Biden for the same night, and NBC later scheduled one with Trump that will air at the same time. The network has been met with backlash for the decision.
The letter, which is addressed to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell, and NBCU News Group chairman Cesar Conde, argues, "This is not a partisan issue. This is about the political health of our democracy." They continue, "You are enabling the President's bad behavior while undercutting the Presidential Debate Commission and doing a disservice to the American public." The letter further suggests that "this kind of indifference to the norms and rules of our democracy are what have brought our country to this perilous state."
The letter concludes, "We are simply asking that NBC air the President's town hall either before or after Vice President Biden's so that American voters can have the opportunity to watch both."
Read the full letter and see the complete list of signees below:
To Brian Roberts, Jeff Shell and Cesar Conde:
We are a group of writers, actors, directors and producers. 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. We have always thought of NBC Universal as both a terrific creative home and a brand that stands for the best in entertainment and broadcast journalism.
This is why we have been devastated to learn that you have chosen to air President Trump's town hall this Thursday night at 8pm, directly opposite Vice President Biden's town hall.
This is not a partisan issue. This is about the political health of our democracy.
President Trump refused to participate in the virtual debate scheduled for Thursday night by the Presidential Debate Commission. By agreeing to air his town hall as counterprogramming opposite Vice President Biden's town hall on ABC, you are enabling the President's bad behavior while undercutting the Presidential Debate Commission and doing a disservice to the American public.
We believe this kind of indifference to the norms and rules of our democracy are what have brought our country to this perilous state.
We are simply asking that NBC air the President's town hall either before or after Vice President Biden's so that American voters can have the opportunity to watch both.
We understand the necessities of business, especially in this difficult time. But we believe there are larger issues of civic responsibility at stake here.
David A. Goodman
Sterling K. Brown
Susan Kelechi Watson