Election 2020

Actually, It's Good That Major Networks Are Covering Both Trump's and Biden's Town Halls

No, it’s not “bad for democracy” to keep giving a platform to the President of the United States.

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Tonight, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden will host separate town hall events where each of them will answer questions from voters.

These two events are a replacement for what was supposed to be another presidential debate, but after Trump's COVID-19 infection, the Commission on Presidential Debates decided they'd go with a virtual debate format. Trump wouldn't agree to that change and Biden suggested they push the debate back a week before the entire debate was just scrapped.

Trump's town hall will be on NBC and Biden's will be on ABC, with both starting at 8 p.m. Eastern. Some very important media people are now very mad that Trump seems to have deliberately pushed for the same slot as Biden to make them compete for viewers.

Based on reporting by the Washington Post and The New York Times, the complaining seems to primarily be in media circles. Arguably, it's actually only coming from various people in the media. From the Post:

Veteran journalist Jeff Greenfield called it "indefensible" on Twitter, where a call to boycott NBC was a trending topic.

"They rewarded Trump by giving him this time," Greenfield said in an interview.

Katie Couric, former host of NBC's "Today" show, said on Twitter that NBC's decision was "bad for democracy." NBC actress Shakina Nayfack, whose comedy series "Connecting" will be preempted Thursday by the Trump town hall, criticized her employer.

"Y'all sign my checks of late but I'm disgusted by my home network giving Trump a platform for fear mongering, bigotry and disinformation," she wrote on Twitter.

Over the last four years, many in the media and the pundit class have argued that media outlets should stop "rewarding" Trump with coverage because of his outlandish, crude, nasty, and boorish behavior, particularly at his rallies.

But Trump, horrible or saintly, is President of the United States. It is, in fact, part of the role that the media has defined for itself in a democratic society to give platforms for elected leaders to speak, and then also hold them accountable with fact-checking and investigation. It is completely ethical and moral for NBC to host President Trump's town hall, taking place less than a month before Election Day.

As the Post notes, town halls get much smaller numbers of viewers. The first presidential debate was seen by 73 million people, according to Nielsen ratings. Tonight's town halls might not even crack 10 million each. That is to say, most Americans aren't actually going to watch either of them, making the outrage even more insipid and performative. Some may ultimately just watch clips of interesting moments online. There is a bizarre sense of moral outrage at the very idea of competition for attention in the framework of democracy, as though that weren't actually a feature of the voting.

But nobody actually has to watch these events live, right? The viewership numbers game matters primarily to the media outlets themselves, to the data nerds at the campaigns who are paid to worry about this, and to Trump, who still thinks ratings matter in 2020 even though primetime network television is years into a long slide into irrelevance.

Democracy is losing nothing by having the two of them go head to head in the same timeslot. The percentage of undecided voters is much, much smaller than it was in 2016 at this time; we're talking in the 3 to 5 percent range in many recent polls. Biden's town hall will most likely be watched by Biden voters and the media. Trump's town hall will most likely be watched by Trump voters and the media. To the extent that anything of actual value comes out of either town hall, the media should cover it for the benefit of that small group of Americans who remain undecided.

NEXT: Efforts To Limit Ballot Drop-Off Boxes Are Cynical Electoral Gamesmanship

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  1. I guess the media doesn’t know there is such a thing as Youtube or DVRs. Anyone who wants to watch both has plenty of options.

    What is going to happen is Trump’s town hall’s ratings will be HUUGE and Biden’s ratings will be a little south of the ratings for the 5 am Everybody Love’s Raymond reruns on TBS every morning. The Post and the Times don’t want that to happen.

    1. And half of the people watching Biden will be waiting to see if he starts mumbling incoherently about Cornpop. It’s sort of like people going to an auto race or an air show secretly hoping to see some wrecks.

    2. There aren’t going to be too many people that watch both. We are heading towards complete segregation of news and information. Each side wants to slow roast their brains in their own cozy echo chamber oven.

      1. Yeah, because you don’t fit that description at all.

        Sometimes you are the best trolling act on the internet. The best trolls are the accidental trolls.

        1. Are you counting the dashes right? There are at least two CMW—, with differing numbers of dashes.

          1. >>differing numbers of dashes

            that’s just wrong, man. those things are tiny ain’t nobody got time for that.

            1. Next time you see CMW— responding to CMW—, copy the handles into an editor and compare them. No need to actually count them 🙂

              1. I just don’t care enough to go through that much effort.

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            2. That’s dashist.

          2. No. I am not. I have always been terrible about keeping score at home. Thanks.

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        2. I check what both sides are saying every time i check the news, so no, I don’t fit that description. I recommend allsides.com for a comprehensive overview of how both sides are spinning an issue.

          1. It’s telling that they interpret any disagreement with their right wing blog-o-sphere propaganda as being equivalent to left wing propaganda.

            1. Also DOL and Chipper:
              “Everyone who disagrees with me is Hitler”.

              1. +”censorship is good”

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    4. “5 am Everybody Love’s Raymond reruns on TBS every morning”

      That’s some oddly specific knowledge about TBS’s morning programming, John.

      1. My dog gets me up every morning at five am.

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    5. “What is going to happen is Trump’s town hall’s ratings will be HUUGE and Biden’s ratings will be a little south of the ratings for the 5 am Everybody Love’s Raymond reruns on TBS every morning.”

      Biden’s convention earned better ratings than Trump’s convention. You sense we’ve experience a surge in half-educated bigots in America recently?

    6. Steve Scully just got suspended by CSPAN for lying.

      1. I just saw that.
        Not canned though. Amazing.

        1. Call me cynical but it seems like he was suspended for being stupid

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  2. will host separate town hall events where each of them will answer questions from voters.

    haha. Please. No one could possibly be naive enough to believe this.

    They preset all the questions they plan to answer. Then they solicit questions from voters. Those that match the preset questions get chosen to read the question.

    There is no situation here where a bunch of voters are just randomly asking these guy questions that they might not have prepared for.

      1. I’d like to see someone ask Biden to disavow socialism

  3. “Tonight, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden will host separate town hall events where each of them will answer questions from voters.”

    This is a charitable formulation. Planted questions, from planted participants, televised on media networks that routinely create the news they report upon is not good for democracy. Endorsing Soviet era political theater as an indispensable element of our nation’s political fabric is absurd.

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  5. Trump’s town hall will most likely be watched by Trump voters and the media.

    Why would anyone think this? A shit ton of Trump haters will tune in for this.

    1. Not too many will. The people that hate Trump can’t stand to even watch him. They will turn off the TV if he is on.

      1. Anecdotally, everyone I personally know who is a rabid Trump hater can’t get enough. They watch all the debates, press conferences and news coverage of his rallies. And send themselves into a boiling rage every time.

        1. I think when Trump leaves the White House–whenever that happens–the rabid Trump haters will starve to death. Their reason for existence will have disappeared, and they’ll just wander around the streets in a daze until they collapse.

          I mean, it’s not like they’re going to go out and get a job.

          1. Heydrich: Oh yes, he told me a story about a man he had known all his life, a boyhood friend. This man hated his father. Loved his mother fiercely. His mother was devoted to him, but his father used to beat him, demeaned him, disinherited him. Anyway, this friend grew to manhood and was still in his thirties when the mother died. The mother, who had nurtured and protected him, died. The man stood at her grave as they lowered the coffin, and tried to cry, but no tears came. The man’s father lived to a very extended old age, and withered away and died when the son was in his fifties. At the father’s funeral, much to the son’s surprise, he could not control his tears. Wailing, sobbing… he was apparently inconsolable. Lost. That was the story Kritzinger told me.
            Eichmann: I don’t think I understand.
            Heydrich: No? [Eichmann shakes his head] The man had been driven his whole life by hatred of his father. When the mother died, that was a loss, but when the father died, and the hate had lost its object, the man’s life was empty… over.

          2. Oh, these people are nothing but hate, and were long before Trump – he’s just the best idol that’s ever come along to project it onto

            1. Tony is a great example of this. If he

        2. This is very familiar to me. I live with a severe case of TDS in the house. She has CNN, NBC, and MSNBC on speed dial. She probably watches six to eight hours of Trump coverage per

          Even when the stories are obvious lies, pointing out anything that is untrue sends her into a blind seething rage. So we just don’t mention anything about the head creep in charge.

          1. And she is kind of a left libertarian. Not terribly deeply politically aware, but believes in personal freedom and is relatively aware of the negative impacts of government intrusion into personal finances.

            In other words, she would fit in rather well with the reason staff.

          2. Glad to know I’m not alone!

          3. There is a difference between watching coverage of Trump and watching Trump himself. Does your wife/girlfriend watch Trump speeches?

        3. “Anecdotally, everyone I personally know who is a rabid Trump hater can’t get enough.”

          This. Just like they hate-watch Fox News

  6. What’s a major network?

    1. The ones that old people watch.

  7. If it’s not already evident the only people whining about this are celebrities holed up in their mansions, stupid fucking assholes on twitter, and that faggot Don Lemon.

    1. I think you have someone confused with Anderson Cooper.

  8. >>Some very important media people are now very mad that Trump seems to have deliberately pushed for the same slot as Biden to make them compete for viewers.

    kinda like a debate?

  9. Of course they’re mad. Suppression only works if you have everyone on board or you can use the government to round people up. They’ve got to win the election to get option two, so they’re going to be pissed at anyone who breaks ranks and prevents option one from working.

  10. I’m curious what those media pundits would have said if a network had ever denied President Obama a platform.

    Actually, no I’m not curious at all. I know for a rock-solid fact that they would have been screaming “racism” to the high heavens. Hypocrites, all of them.

    1. They screamed racism for everything, despite the fact that he was elected and then re-elected.

      If we’re a country based on “white nationalism”, were fucking terrible at it.

      1. Could you imagine Sweden, Denmark or Norway electing a black leader?
        Or Spain, Germany, France, Italy or Russia? Or China? Or Argentina? Or India electing a Dalit?

        But the US is the most racist place ever.

  11. Opposition to Trump communicating with voters is anti-democratic.

  12. And if the two were at different times? If Biden were first, they’d complain that Trump got to rebut after seeing what Biden said; if Trump were first, they’d complain that viewers would tune out before Biden got a chance.

  13. Oof, starting a headline with ‘Actually’ is the lamest shit I’ve ever seen.

    1. this ^^ please read this Scott and never use “actually” again. even where you might think it actually applies.

    2. No, there are other ways to start a headline that are just as lame.

  14. What is the point of having debates or town halls at all? It’s not like anything of substance is ever discussed, or doesn’t get dodged if asked as a question. Still waiting for Biden to drop an F-bomb-now that would be something at least.

    1. “Still waiting for Biden to drop an F-bomb-now that would be something at least.”

      He supposedly did this at the Obamacare signing ceremony.

  15. I will be waiting to see if anyone asks Joe Biden a real question about barisma and Ukraine. I will be interested to see if they ignore it, softball it, or dig in to find a real answer to what is pretty transparently a case of corruption.

    I will also be waiting to see if anyone asks Joe Biden why he never came forward to explain that the Russia investigation was actually a Democrat operation and a hoax.

    Or, if that is too harsh and unrealistic of a question, I will be waiting to see if anyone asks Joe Biden why he did not come forward with his knowledge that General Flynn had been set up and railroaded on false charges.

    For Trump, I will be listening for questions about the state of Durham’s investigation. Were I there, I would ask why, given all that is publicly known, we have seen no movement on this investigation as of yet.

    That is a bit of a softball version of a hardball question though.

    I would also ask Trump about the debt. Since they have spent about four years worth of money this one year, the debt has exploded. I would love to see how he plans to deal with that.

    I would ask Trump why he seems to spend so much time reading tweets and watching cable news shows. I would ask him if he thinks his retweeting of various memes helps or hurts his public perception.

    I would ask Trump about his trade wars. Specifically, I would ask him if the end goal of his various tariffs is simply to raise barriers around the United States and raise money through tariffs, or if he would prefer an end goal where countries like China and the United States engage in free and open trade like Canada and the United States do.

    1. We already know what Biden will do. He tried it during the first debate. Someone will ask a question very specifically written, “Mr Vice President, I have been reading a lot of news critical of your son’s work in other countries. Can you explain what is going on?”

      At that point, Biden will launch into a long sad discussion about his war hero son, Beau, who fought in afghanistan, yada yada.

      He will put Beau up as a shield in an attempt to confuse anyone who is not intimately aware of the details of Biden’s family.

    2. engage in free and open trade like Canada and the United States do.

      We’ll just not mention the decades-long softwood lumber dispute because we’re all friends here.

    3. I understand you waited in vain.
      Nothing but softballs from the former Clinton apparatchik.
      Meanwhile Savannah Guthrie went after Trump like a rabid dog.

  16. Trump should just go on Rogan.

  17. “Y’all sign my checks of late but I’m disgusted by my home network giving Trump a platform for fear mongering, bigotry and disinformation,” she wrote on Twitter.

    Katie Couric should resign in protest, but she’s largely unemployable now that she’s old and wrinkly. Also, she should never be allowed near the Olympics again.

    1. I don’t remember that. What did Katie do at the Olympics?

      Her politics are abysmal, but she is cute as a button.

      NBC does a great job of hiring lead female anchors for their morning news show. They have an unbroken string of fantastic women anchors on the today show running back to the ’70s. The current one is quite openly a Democrat operative, but she still is an extremely talented news anchor. News anchor, in the modern sense, not in the Cronkite/Morrow sense.

      They basically fill the same role as Ryan seacrest, except for the news instead of music. A likable interface to the world, your coffee buddy for your breakfast nook in the morning.

  18. Y’all sign my checks of late but I’m disgusted by my home network giving Trump a platform for fear mongering, bigotry and disinformation,” she wrote on Twitter.

    Not disgusted enought to give up that paycheck though.

    I would think that if she really believed NBC was giving a platform to hate that she would not want to be associated with them. Start the cancel movement right there – quit.

  19. Scott, quick question, you were one of the worst offenders at this publication with the Russia Fever Dreams conspiracy, especially in terms of defending the FBI and CIA in a slavish manner.

    Since you thought Facebook memes were super serious-y election interference, is there any reason why you’re not conspirizing about a tech company banning an article from its platform which seems to fit the mentally deficient standard of “election interference” that you held right up until yesterday?

  20. It is, in fact, part of the role that the media has defined for itself in a democratic society to give platforms for elected leaders to speak,

    Uh wat? No it isn’t. Where would you get that idea?

    The purpose of ‘news’ is to have something to put on between the advertisements. That’s it.

    If there’s another role media has taken on it would be – *sometimes* – as a watcher of government. Again, in the hopes to find something to fill up the space between ads.

    1. There’s space between the ads? Huh, I always turned it off after the ad played.

  21. I would love to ask Trump if he really thinks the Bin Laden killing was a fake.

  22. Regardless of the major networks covering them, until each are fully fact checked, neither should appear on be allowed to have linked on any major social media outlet. I think we can all agree on that. The only way you should be able to see these is to go to the respective websites of the media organizations covering the event, or tune in on your TV after adjusting the rabbit ears for best reception.

  23. So… dueling softball arenas.

    If the chosen “moderators” secretly switching venues, I would watch with barrel of popcorn. But I already know the outcome of each debate, so why bother? Buncha doddering old men arguing over creamed corn.

    1. Yea, Trump never faces hostile questions…

  24. Meanwhile, Steve Scully admitted that his Twitter account was not hacked and that he is simply a technologically illiterate hack that was conspiring to rig the second presidential debate against Donald Trump under the guise of being a neutral, down-the-middle, no-dog-in-the-race kind of guy.

    This is all good for our democracy. Very good.

    https://www.chicagotribune.com/nation-world/ct-nw-c-span-steve-scully-twitter-hack-20201015-aymwk5pihndwxcbxjcsy344aoa-story.html

    1. Has facebook fact checked the Chicago Tribune’s article?

    2. Meanwhile, while we debate whether journalists should put their biases and voting records on the table, they routinely lie about the words that came out of their own mouths/keyboards.

      1. Jennifer Rubin is a good example … of someone whose duplicity would likely qualify any other person to be diagnosed with split personality disorder.

        She is a hero. I am surprised they have not yet offered to make her a debate moderator.

    3. Once again, the show Veep proves to be a greater imitation of real life than any ‘gravitas’ political show like The West Wing.

      1. Veep is the most honest/accurate show about politics ever made.

        1. I haven’t seen Veep but it would have to go some to beat Yes, Minister/Yes, Prime Minister. I love JL-D, though.

  25. Posted this in roundup, but this is probably a more appropriate place:

    Steve Scully, the “ethical journalist” that was supposed to moderate tonight’s debate, has been suspended after lying about his Twitter being hacked.

    1. Guy above you got there first, but yeah, obvious bias was obvious.

      1. Also, obvious hack lie was obvious

  26. It takes less skill to win the Presidency than it took to win Celebrity Apprentice. Maybe the candidates should have to display some actual skills besides that of evading questions with rehearsed answers. Oh, what a dream world I live in.

  27. Twitter just went down for the first time I can recall. Wonder if its related to their many many bad decisions in the last few days. Taking bets on doubling down, USG action, or if genuinely down now.

    1. C’mon, man!
      Obviously Russia

      1. Ooo, your right, forgot the most important option.

    2. I was reminded of the scene from The Simpsons when all of the kids simultaneously stop watching TV, and learn how to play outside again. But unfortunately, journalists don’t seem capable of being that productive. So who knows what they did…stared at the wall and fought back tears?

  28. I, like most Americans, assumed a year ago that by now we would be able to watch thoughtful and insightful debates between the 2 obvious choices for leader of the republic. Bill Weld and Michael Bloomberg. Alas the chicanery of the parties has once again dashed the hopes and dreams of so many. Now the nation is left to settle for competing “town halls”. And I don’t remember how to program my VCR.

  29. I, like most Americans, assumed a year ago that by now we would be able to watch thoughtful and insightful debates between the 2 obvious choices for leader of the republic. Bill Weld and Michael Bloomberg.

    I wish I hadn’t just spewed coffee all over my shirt. Now I hate you Grimsrud.

  30. I recorded both “shows.” How do they expect me to pay attention to Statist A & Statist B when the baseball playoff games are on? The Bills/Chiefs NFL game would have been on tonight, but was postponed to Monday because of the virus. The question is, will I play those programs, or just delete them?

  31. Years ago I submitted the idea that, if people would just elect me King of the World, I’d fix everything. Its you all’s fault that I haven’t been able to fix the world.

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  33. It is good they covered Biden too, but it should have been at a different time or night. Biden scheduled it at the same time to hide as his handlers knew more people would watch Trump.

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