More than 100 top directors, producers and Hollywood stars have issued a letter to Comcast and NBCUniversal executives protesting the timing of Thursday’s scheduled event with President Donald Trump, which is set to air during rival network ABC’s town hall with Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
“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,” the letter, first reported by The Hollywood Reporter, states.
The letter, which was sent to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, NBCUniversal chairman Jeff Shell and NBCUniversal News Group chairman Cesar Conde condemns the timing of an hourlong Trump event on NBC’s network scheduled to air in direct conflict with the first hour of Biden’s 90-minute town hall on ABC.
The missive comes after President Trump refused to participate in the virtual debate scheduled for Thursday night by the debate commission amid concerns about health risks after Trump was diagnosed with coronavirus days after leaving the first presidential debate stage in Cleveland, Ohio.
“This is not a partisan issue. This is about the political health of our democracy,” the letter states.
Prominent actors, directors and producers — including many involved with NBC’s programming — have signed the letter. Sterling K. Brown of “This is Us” as well as Ava DuVernay and Aaron Sorkin are among its signatories.
Trump scored the NBC event after declining to participate in the virtual debate put forward by the debate commission, and accusing its leadership and scheduled moderator of bias — calling C-SPAN’s Steve Scully a “Never Trumper.”
NBC has long leaned on Trump for ratings, including gigs long before his presidential bid on the Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice, which arguably helped boost his profile as a shrewd businessman and real estate magnate.
Per the Associated Press, NBC said in a statement that “the Trump campaign did not dictate or request the time slot nor express any preference.”
The network provided a statement from clinical director of the National Institute of Health, Dr. H. Clifford Lane, declaring that he had reviewed the President’s medical record and concluded “with a high degree of confidence” that the president was no longer contagious based on information provided by White House physician Dr. Sean Conley.
Katie Couric, a former “Today” show host, said on Twitter that NBC’s decision was “bad for democracy.”
Another former NBC News executive, Vivian Schiller, called the move “shameful” in a tweet Wednesday, saying, “the point of a news organization is to serve the public. This is the opposite. @NBCNews could literally run this any other day, or any other time.”