Viewer’s guide: Trump, Biden hold competing town halls

Viewer’s guide: Trump, Biden hold competing town halls
Posted at 6:41 PM, Oct 14, 2020

Thursday was supposed to mark the second of three presidential debates between Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

Instead, Trump and Biden will hold town hall forums on opposite networks in a hope to sway voters to the polls by November 3. The town hall forums will air Thursday evening at 8 p.m.

How we got here

In the two weeks since the last debate, Trump tested positive for the coronavirus as dozens of others who had contact with Trump around the time of the debate also tested positive for the virus. Also, revelations surfaced that Trump’s travel party did not follow the debate’s coronavirus guidelines at the Sept. 30 meeting in Cleveland.

As a result, the Commission on President Debates announced last week the debate scheduled for Oct. 15 would be held virtually. Wanting no part of a virtual debate, Trump immediately retracted his participation in the debate, and instead his campaign said it would hold a rally.

Meanwhile, Biden said he’d opt to hold a televised town hall forum on Thursday.

On Wednesday, NBC News announced that Trump had agreed to participate in a town hall at the same time.

When/where to watch

Biden’s town hall will begin at 8 p.m. ET live in all time zones. The town hall will air live on ABC, ABC News Live on streaming platforms, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos will moderate.

Trump’s town hall will also begin at 8 p.m. ET live in all time zones. The town hall will air live on NBC, MSNBC and CNBC, stream on NBC News NOW and be available in Spanish on Telemundo’s digital platforms. NBC News’ Savannah Guthrie will moderate.

Biden’s town hall is slated to last 90 minutes, while Trump’s will go 60 minutes.

NBC News took criticism from some on social media for opting to hold the town hall at the same time as Biden’s event. The concurrent town halls will leave swing viewers having to pick one of the candidates to watch.

Stephanopoulos hosted a town hall with Trump and voters last month, while Biden did a town hall with NBC News’ Lester Holt a week ago.


Unlike debates, town hall forum responses have no time limit, which allows for deeper discussions on topics. Based on recent town hall forums, the coronavirus and the economic fallout will likely be key topics.

Also of note is that Trump has largely avoided taking questions from reporters since being diagnosed with the coronavirus. It would not be surprising to see direct questions posed to Trump on holding large events without masks amid a pandemic.