NBC Says Trump Will Hold Town Hall Meeting Thursday, Competing Against Biden
President Trump may not be debating Joseph R. Biden Jr. on the same stage on Thursday night as originally planned. But the two candidates will still face off head-to-head.
NBC News confirmed on Wednesday that it would broadcast a prime-time town-hall-style event with Mr. Trump from Miami on Thursday at 8 p.m. Eastern, with the president fielding questions from Florida voters.
The event will directly overlap with an already-scheduled ABC televised town-hall meeting with Mr. Biden in Philadelphia, which will begin at the same time.
Mr. Biden’s town hall has been on the books since last week, after Mr. Trump, who had recently contracted the coronavirus, rejected plans to convert the second formal presidential debate into a virtual matchup; the debate was eventually canceled.
The NBC event, to be moderated by the “Today” show host Savannah Guthrie, had been contingent on the Trump campaign providing independent proof that the president would not pose a safety risk to the other participants — including NBC crew members, voters and Ms. Guthrie herself.
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As late as Tuesday afternoon, NBC executives were waiting for that proof, but the network determined late Tuesday that it would be comfortable moving forward, according to two people familiar with the planning.
On Wednesday’s “Today” show, the NBC anchor Craig Melvin said the town hall would occur “in accordance with the guidelines set forth by health officials” and proffered a statement from Clifford Lane, a clinical director at the National Institutes of Health.
In the statement, Dr. Lane said he had reviewed medical data about Mr. Trump’s condition, including a so-called P.C.R. test — a widely used diagnostic test for the coronavirus that is considered more reliable than a rapid antigen test — that the N.I.H. “collected and analyzed” on Tuesday. Dr. Lane concluded “with a high degree of confidence” that the president is “not shedding infectious virus,” NBC said.
The network did not explicitly say that Mr. Trump had received a negative result from the P.C.R. test.
Mr. Trump and his aides have not shared extensive details about the president’s medical condition with the public, and over the past few days, NBC executives were no exception. Until late Tuesday, the network had been prepared to cancel the event if the president’s team did not present convincing evidence that Mr. Trump would not potentially infect those around him, one of the people said.
The town hall on Thursday will be held outdoors at the Pérez Art Museum in Miami, and audience members will be required to wear face masks, the network said. Ms. Guthrie and Mr. Trump will be seated at least 12 feet apart.
NBC officials began discussing the possibility of a town hall with the Trump campaign last week, after Mr. Trump pulled out of the second planned presidential debate. The network made clear at the start that it needed outside proof of the president’s medical condition.
NBC officials did not say exactly what testing criteria the network had requested, but its management said it was not relying solely on the word of the White House physician, Dr. Sean P. Conley, the two people said.
Dr. Conley has not taken reporters’ questions in more than a week. On Monday, he said that Mr. Trump had tested negative “on consecutive days” using a rapid antigen coronavirus test not intended for that purpose. Experts have cautioned that the test’s accuracy has not yet been investigated enough to be sure that the president is virus-free.
The NBC event is one of Mr. Trump’s last opportunities of the campaign to make his case before a large televised audience. It will be simulcast on MSNBC and CNBC, virtually guaranteeing the president a higher Nielsen rating than Mr. Biden’s town hall that night, which is set to air on a single traditional TV network.
The two candidates are scheduled to meet for a final debate in Nashville next Thursday, Oct. 22, moderated by the NBC News correspondent Kristen Welker.
Maggie Haberman and Apoorva Mandavilli contributed reporting.