President Donald Trump sought to tamp down expectations ahead of his town hall with NBC on Thursday night, accusing the news network of setting him up.
“So, you know I’m being set up tonight,” he claimed to supporters at a rally in North Carolina, before deriding the network and its personalities — including the moderator of his upcoming town hall.
“It’s NBC, the worst. Home of sleepy eyes Chuck Todd and some others,” Trump said, referring to the “Meet the Press” host.
The president then decried a town hall the network did a week ago with his Democratic opponent Joe Biden that was panned as an “infomercial” for the former vice president.
“They gave Lester Holt — he’s a beauty — they gave Joe Biden a week ago a town hall,” Trump said, asserting that “any child” could have answered the kinds of questions Biden fielded from the “Nightly News” anchor, including his 14-year-old son.
“Barron Trump would do great on that show. Because he’s a young child. They asked him questions that a child could answer, any child. A smart child, not such a smart child,” the president said to laughter, calling last week’s town hall a “joke.”
A spokesperson for NBC declined to comment on Trump’s attacks.
Trump then appeared to shrug off his qualms with the network, telling rallygoers that if nothing else, his campaign would get an hour of free exposure across all of NBC’s platforms.
“They asked me if I’d do it, I figured, ‘What the hell? We get a free hour of television,’” he said. Trump then pivoted to Savannah Guthrie, the “TODAY Show” co-anchor moderating Thursday’s event.
“She’s always lovely, isn’t she?” Trump mused dryly. “But I figured, why not? What’s the difference in tone between what they did to this guy who can’t put sentences together and what they do with me?”
Trump’s attack comes amid backlash inside the network for offering the town hall to begin with, given that the second presidential debate was planned for Thursday. The debate was thrown into limbo earlier this month with Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis, and the president refused to participate once it was changed to a virtual format.
In response, Biden scheduled a two-hour town hall with rival network ABC, which is slated to begin at the same time as Trump’s town hall with NBC.
NBC only announced Thursday’s event this week after receiving assurances that the president is no longer contagious. The network faced immediate blowback for booking Trump in the same time slot as Biden, forcing voters to choose which candidate to watch.
Trump has also performed worse in retail-like campaign scenarios, and faced tough questioning from undecided voters in a town hall with ABC in September that one of his media allies, Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, called an “ambush” of the president.
Marc Caputo contributed to this report.
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