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More analysis of the battle of the town halls:
America is often described as a “split screen nation”, bitterly divided between two political tribes dwelling in echo chambers. But Thursday night at 8pm was a bit too on the nose.
The NBC network hosted a town hall event with Donald Trump. ABC hosted a simultaneous town hall event with his Democratic challenger Joe Biden. CBS, meanwhile, hosted the reality TV show Big Brother with Julie Chen Moonves.
It was a fitting battle for a ratings-obsessed US president who made himself a reality TV star on The Apprentice. Though for some the two men talking at the same time on two different channels was at least preferable to them talking at the same time in the notoriously rancorous first presidential debate:
Donald Trump’s floundering performance during Thursday’s NBC town hall left many feeling there was only one winner from the event – Trump’s interviewer, Savannah Guthrie.
Guthrie, a co-host of NBC’s Today morning show, repeatedly got the better of Trump as she pressed the president on his debts, his actions on coronavirus, and the dangerous rightwing conspiracy theory QAnon.
Trump was at times clearly uncomfortable, and his campaign attacked Guthrie less than an hour after the event finished, suggesting Guthrie had filled the role of “Joe Biden surrogate”.
In Guthrie, Trump met someone who not only fact-checked him in real time, but at times pushed back on his usually unchallenged rhetoric.
The tone was set early, when Trump claimed that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had found that “85% of people who wear a mask catch [coronavirus]”.
Guthrie corrected the president, explaining that is not what the survey said – it found that of a group of 150 Covid-19 patients, 85% said they had worn a mask.
It was rare for Trump to be contradicted, given his “interviews” with Fox News frequently consist of him phoning in and talking at length, uninterrupted:
The dueling town halls between Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden may not have had the face-to-face fireworks of the presidential debate which they replaced, but they still provided moments of drama and offered clear insight into the dynamics of the 2020 campaign.
Here are some of the key takeaways of an evening when America had a split-screen experience of the race to the White House.
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The Trump campaign attacked NBC News’ Savannah Guthrie in a statement released after tonight’s dueling town halls.
“Even though the commission canceled the in-person debate that could have happened tonight, one occurred anyway, and President Trump soundly defeated NBC’s Savannah Guthrie in her role as debate opponent and Joe Biden surrogate,” said Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaign’s communications director.
Guthrie has been widely praised for pressing Trump on his coronavirus testing history and the QAnon conspiracy theory, which the president refused to denounce.
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