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Claws out for Chuck Todd when it’s reported he was facilitator of NBC’s ‘mad move’ to host Trump town hall

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NBC News senior political director Chuck Todd is taking heat on social media after being accused of intentionally scheduling a town hall event featuring President Donald Trump on Thursday that will air opposite a separate town hall event for Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

The competing town halls — ABC News is hosting the former vice president — are being held instead of a second in-person debate after President Trump refused to participate in a virtual event.

The Commission on Presidential Debates made the unilateral decision to stage a virtual debate after the president contracted COVID-19. Trump has regularly tested negative for the virus for several days, according to White House medical officials. The commission also refused a Trump campaign request to push back the two final debates a week.

Most mainstream outlets and polling firms have Biden well ahead of Trump in the polls, though the president’s campaign regularly refutes them. Still, GOP strategists believe that the president’s town hall represents one of just a few remaining opportunities to take his message to the nation.

“Right now, it seems to me that the reason he’s losing is people are just processing this through the lens of how they feel about Trump,” Scott Jennings, a Republican strategist, told The Hill. “The town hall is an opportunity to do one thing and that’s to get people to think about the race as a choice and not a referendum.”

He added that the town hall, to be held in Miami, will allow the president to clearly contrast his agenda with that of Biden.

“You want people to think that you’ve got a better plan, or at least that your plans aren’t as scary as the other guy’s plans. But that requires Trump to articulate his agenda,” he said, claiming the president “hasn’t articulated much in the way of a second-term agenda” thus far.

Meanwhile, Jon Reinish, a Democratic strategist and former aide to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), told The Hill the forums will give both candidates an opportunity to address the country without the kind of raucous, often distracting interruptions that were prevalent during their first debate.

“This gives Joe Biden a great opportunity to do what he does best and do what he did especially well in the first debate, which is talk directly to voters and answer their concerns,” he said.

As to the complaints about Todd and NBC, CNN’s media analyst Brian Stelter said he’s heard from several people inside NBC and MSNBC who are also not happy with the decision because competing town halls may simply cancel each other out.

“Some staffers inside NBC News and MSNBC are also perturbed by the decision, with some likening it to collusion between the Trump campaign and the network, sources said. No one from the news division has publicly criticized the move,” he wrote.

Former NBC “Today” show host Katie Couric also chided the decision.

“Having dueling town halls is bad for democracy,” she Wednesday. “Voters should be able to watch both and I don’t think many will. This will be good for Trump because people like to watch his unpredictability. This is a bad decision.”

Still, other analysts said it is important for the president to use any opportunity to address the country ahead of the election, which is roughly three weeks away, perhaps as a means of recovering from his first debate performance.

“I think there’s more pressure on (Trump) to remedy that in terms of the way he comes across in this event,” Grant Reeher, a political science professor at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, told USA Today.

And while some see Couric’s point, Reeher said it’s the final debate between the candidates — scheduled for Oct. 22 in Nashville — will be a defining moment in both campaigns.

“There’s room on both sides for … raising some doubts about the other candidates,” he said.

Nevertheless, Todd was blasted online as users accused him of essentially sabotaging Biden with the simultaneous Trump town hall.

Warning: Strong language

https://twitter.com/seankent/status/1316605832323309570

Jon Dougherty

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