Ben Stiller, Mariska Hargitay among stars protesting NBC for 'enabling' Trump with dueling town hall

Taryn Ryder
·Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
·5 mins read

Some of Hollywood’s biggest stars demanded NBC move Thursday night’s scheduled town hall with President Donald Trump. Ben Stiller, Amy Schumer, J.J. Abrams and Julianne Moore are among those outraged over the company’s decision to air the president’s event directly opposite former Vice President Joe Biden’s town hall on ABC.

“This is not a partisan issue. This is about the political health of our democracy,” a petition, signed by more than 100 industry heavyweights, reads.

“President Trump refused to participate in the virtual debate scheduled for Thursday night by the Presidential Debate Commission,” the letter continues. “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.”

Mariska Hargitay, Ben Stiller and Sterling K. Brown are a few big names calling out NBC for the network's town hall with President Donald Trump. (Photo: Getty Images)
Mariska Hargitay, Ben Stiller and Sterling K. Brown are a few big names calling out NBC for the network's town hall with President Donald Trump. (Photo: Getty Images)

After President Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis, it was announced the second presidential debate scheduled for Oct. 15 would be held virtually due to coronavirus concerns. The president bowed out, so the Biden campaign said the Democratic nominee would instead participate in a town hall on ABC. Trump’s town hall was announced on Wednesday. NBC has a long relationship with the president as it was the home network of The Apprentice.

The petition has been sent to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, NBCUniversal chairman Jeff Shell and NBCUniversal News Group chairman Cesar Conde. Some of NBC’s top talent have signed it, including, Law & Order: SVU’s Mariska Hargitay, Christopher Meloni — who is reprising his role as Elliott Stabler in the new show Law & Order: Organized Crime — and This Is Us stars Sterling K. Brown, Mandy Moore, Chrissy Metz and Milo Ventimiglia.

The hourlong town hall with Trump begins at 8 p.m. ET, directly conflicting with the first hour of Biden’s 90-minute event on NBC’s rival network.

“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,” the petition stats. “We understand the necessities of business, especially in this difficult time. But we believe there are larger issues of civic responsibility at stake here.”

NBC was criticized by journalists and employees, both current and former, after announcing the timing of Trump’s town hall. Katie Couric tweeted it was a “bad decision” to create dueling town halls, writing, “This will be good for Trump because people like to watch his unpredictability.”

“The point of a news organization is to serve the public. This is the opposite,” Vivian Schiller, former NBC News chief digital officer, tweeted. “[NBC News] could literally run this any other day, or any other time. Shameful.”

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who starred on Seinfeld for its nine season run on NBC, tweeted Thursday calling for a #NBCBlackout.

Read the letter in full 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 NBCUniversal 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 8 p.m., 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.

Signed...

Aaron Sorkin
Adam McKay
Adam Scott
Alex Barnow
Allison Tolman
Amy Lippman
Amy Schumer
Aubrey Plaza
Ava DuVernay
Ayelet Waldman
Ben Stiller
Billy Eichner
Billy Porter
Brendan Gall
Chelsea Handler
Chris Bishop
Chris Meloni
Chris Miller
Chris Sullivan
Chrissy Metz
Courtney Kemp
Dahvi Waller
Damon Lindelof
Dan Fogelman
Daniel Hageman
David A. Goodman
David Guggenheim
Debra Messing
Ely Henry
Emily Gordon
Eric Guggeheim
Greg Berlanti
JJ Abrams
Jason Moore
Jennifer Yale
Jill Knox
Jim Parriott
Joe Mantello
Jon Cryer
Jon Hamm
Jon Huertas
Josh Gad
Josh Singer
Julianne Moore
Julie Plec
Justin Hartley
Keith Powell
Kenya Barris
Kevin Hageman
Kumail Nanjiani
Laeta Kalogridis
Latoya Morgan
Mandy Moore
Marc Guggenheim
Mariska Hargitay
Marti Noxon
Martin Gero
Matthew Lopez
Max Mutchnick
Michael Chabon
Michael Green
Michele Fazekas
Milo Ventimiglia
Neal Baer
Nicholas Stoller
Nicole Yorkin
Otmara Marrero
Parvesh Cheena
Patton Oswalt
Phil Lord
Preacher Lawson
Robert Kirkman
Ryan Murphy
Samuel Baum
Sarah Schechter
Sarah Silverman
Sarah Treem
Seth Grahame-Smith
Seth Rogen
Shakina Nayfack
Sophia Bush
Sterling K. Brown
Sunil Nayir
Susan Kelechi Watson
Tara Butters
Terry Matalas
Thor Freudenthal
Tom McCarthy
Tony Kushner
Travis Beacham
Vanessa Taylor
Zoe Lister-Jones
Ken Olin
Abbi Jacobson
Alison Janney
David Kohan
Robert King
Malcolm Spellman
Seth MacFarlane
Marjorie David
Donald Faison
Chris Misiano
David Goyer
Julie Martin
Joss Whedon

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