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More than 100 Hollywood stars demand NBC move Trump town hall

More than 100 Hollywood actors, directors, producers and showrunners early Thursday sent an open letter to NBCUniversal and Comcast vocalizing their opposition to NBC’s decision to air a town hall with President TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump, Jared Kusher's lawyer threatens to sue Lincoln Project over Times Square billboards Facebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' MORE Thursday evening that will run concurrently with one being held on ABC with Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenFacebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' Senate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus MORE

The letter, published by Variety and other news outlets, included high profile names in film and television, such as Ava DuVernay, J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, Aaron Sorkin and several cast members of NBC’s popular show “This Is Us." 

“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,” the letter said. “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."

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“This is not a partisan issue. This is about the political health of our democracy,” the group added in the letter addressed to Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, NBCUniversal Chairman Jeff Shell and NBCUniversal News Group Chairman Cesar Conde. 

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

The group of signees then called on the executives to run Trump’s town hall either prior to or after Biden’s “so that American voters can have the opportunity to watch both.” 

However, Conde has since issued a statement standing by the decision to air the town hall at 8 p.m. ET, the same time Biden’s will be aired, adding that the move was “motivated only by fairness, not business considerations.” 

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“We aired a town hall with Vice President Biden on Oct. 5 at 8 p.m. If we were to move our town hall with President Trump to a later timeslot, we would be violating our commitment to offer both campaigns access to the same audience and the same forum,” Conde said in the statement, according to Variety.

“We hope voters will watch both discussions — ours will be available at any time, free and on-demand on YouTube, Peacock and all our digital news platforms,” he added. 

Following NBC’s initial announcement of the town hall on Wednesday, calls to boycott the network spread on social media, with several current and former figures associated with NBCUniversal criticizing the company’s decision. 

"Connecting" actress Shakina Nayfack slammed both networks in a Twitter thread, stating that the two candidates should be asked to debate head-to-head. The second presidential debate had been scheduled for Thursday, but Trump refused to make the event digital following his coronavirus diagnosis.

“This echo chamber of rhetoric is a root problem in America,” the actress wrote in a tweet. “These days leading up to the election should be about the exchange and comparison of ideas and policy, not ratings and stoking division.”