Trump, Biden Set for Competing TV Town Halls After Debate Canceled

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.
October 14, 2020 Updated: October 14, 2020

President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will take part in simultaneous town halls on rival TV networks on Oct. 15, in lieu of a debate after organizers scuttled the event.

Trump will travel to Miami to participate in a town hall hosted by NBC News, the network announced on Oct. 14. It will take place outdoors at the Pérez Art Museum. The president and Savannah Guthrie, a “Today” show anchor who will be moderator, will be at least 12 feet apart and all audience members will be socially distanced and required to wear masks.

At the same time, Biden will be answering questions at a town hall in Philadelphia hosted by ABC News. The Biden event will be moderated by network anchor George Stephanopoulos, ABC stated.

Both town halls are scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. Eastern time.

Trump and Biden were supposed to be debating for the second time on Oct. 15, but the Commission on Presidential Debates, a self-described nonpartisan group that organizes the debates, canceled the event after Trump objected to the virtual format announced by the commission after the president contracted COVID-19.

Donald Trump, Joe Biden
President Donald Trump, left, and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden during the first presidential debate at Case Western University and Cleveland Clinic, in Cleveland, on Sept. 29, 2020. (Patrick Semansky/AP Photo)

After Trump said he wouldn’t participate, the commission refused to consider changing the debate back to an in-person one.

“It is now apparent there will be no debate on October 15,” the commission said in an Oct. 9 statement.

The debate was supposed to be a town hall moderated by C-SPAN anchor Steve Scully, who came under criticism for alleged bias, with people pointing to him having worked for Biden in the past, as well as tweets that showed animus toward Trump.

Scully reportedly took to Twitter to ask Anthony Scaramucci, a former White House aide now known as a vocal anti-Trump voice, to ask him how to respond to Trump, who had criticized him.

C-SPAN and the commission soon claimed that Scully’s account was hacked, a claim that the correspondent has made on at least two other times, according to old tweets.

Another presidential debate is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 22. The in-person event will be held at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, if all goes according to plan.

Kristen Welker of NBC is scheduled to be the moderator.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.