The ratings are in for presidential candidates Joe Biden and Donald Trump, who appeared indirectly competing town halls on Thursday night after the president dropped out of the second debate following his COVID-19 diagnosis concerns. Appearing on NBC for an hourlong appearance that prompted a disapproving letter from the network's showrunners and talent, Trump is trailing in the ratings regarding Biden's 90-minute session with ABC.
Even with cable news networks figured in, Deadline reports Biden is averaging 13.9 million total viewers on ABC alone, while Trump is at 13.1 million across NBC, MSNBC and CNBC combined. Biden is currently beating Trump 13.9 million to 10.7 million in the direct broadcast numbers, with MSNBC consisting of 1.7 million viewers and CNBC around 700,000 for the president. Notably, Biden's ABC telecast brought in more viewers than Trump's YouTube stream.
During the town hall event, TODAY anchor Savannah Guthrie was chosen to grill Trump on everything from his coronavirus pandemic response to his unreleased taxes. Guthrie also asked Trump to directly disavow white supremacy and QAnon, an online conspiracy theory about a pedophile cult that Trump has retweeted, both of which he refused to do. "You’re not like someone’s crazy uncle that can just retweet whatever," Guthrie told Trump. Over on ABC, George Stephanopoulos questioned Biden on major election issues, including the Supreme Court, racism, income inequality, LGBTQ+ issues and police reform.
Trump and Biden were originally planned to have a town hall debate. Still, those plans began to disintegrate after the president announced he had been diagnosed with COVID-19 shortly after the first debate, which was maskless for the candidates but socially distanced. Concerns arose about the safety of a second in-person debate after Trump was released from the hospital, urging Americans not to be afraid of the virus that has killed more than 217,000 people in the U.S. so far. Biden told reporters at the time, "I think if he still has COVID, we shouldn't have a debate." The Commission on Presidential Debates, a non-partisan organization, then ruled that the debate would be remote, despite Trump's repeated desire to debate Biden as scheduled in Miami. At that point, Trump dropped out of the debate altogether, telling Fox Business, "I'm not going to waste my time on a virtual debate. It's not what debating is all about. It's ridiculous."