Donald Trump’s town hall with NBC News — competing against a similar event with Joe Biden on ABC News — opened with a contentious series of questions with moderator Savannah Guthrie.
At times, Trump sounded angry and irate as Guthrie grilled him over the details of his testing results, his failure to immediately condemn white supremacists and his trafficking of conspiracy theories.
Guthrie, co-anchor of Today, asked Trump why he retweeted a tweet earlier this week that claimed that Biden was engaged in a conspiracy to have members of Seal Team Six killed to cover up the “fake” death of Osama bin Laden.
“That was an opinion of somebody, and that was a retweet. I”ll put it out there and people can decide,” Trump said.
Town Hall Debates Zinged By Online Celebrity Reactions
“You’re not like somebody’s crazy uncle and can just retweet whatever,” Guthrie said.
Trump said, “I do a lot of retweets, and frankly because the media is so fake and so corrupt, if I didn’t have social media — I don’t call it Twitter, I call it social media — I wouldn’t be able to get the word out.”
Guthrie opened her town hall, held at an outdoor venue in Miami, by questioning him repeatedly about when he last tested negative for COVID-19 before testing positive on Oct. 1.
He was vague on the answer.
Asked whether he took a test on the day of the debate, Trump said first that he “doesn’t remember,” but “possibly I did. Possibly I didn’t.”
Guthrie tried to fact check Trump at other times, including when he claimed that mask wearing doesn’t help. He said that “just the other day they came out with a statement that 85 percent of the people that wear masks catch it.”
“They didn’t say that. I know that study,” Guthrie said.
Trump responded, “That’s what I heard, and that’s what I saw.”
The network endured a mountain of criticism for scheduling its event at the same time that Biden participated in an ABC News town hall in Philadelphia.
On Thursday morning, more than 100 content creators and primetime stars sent a letter to NBC and Comcast officials urging them to switch the time of the town hall, while figures like legendary investigative reporter Carl Bernstein said that the network was getting played by the Trump campaign.
Trump himself fed into that perception, as he bashed Comcast and NBC at a rally earlier on Thursday in North Carolina, and then in a tweet in which he referred to the network news division as “fake news.” The president refrained from making the same insults at the event itself.
MSNBC also carried the town hall, albeit it didn’t feature what rival CNN did for events like it: a countdown clock.