The dueling “town hall” events on ABC and NBC on Thursday night featuring the two 2020 presidential candidates, former Vice President Joe Biden and President Trump, once again underlined that whatever romantic attachment voters have to the “town hall” concept on television is no longer warranted.
These network events are heavily pre-screened, pre-scripted, and pre....dictable. And whenever they are exposed for making “mistakes,” it's always a mistake in favor of Biden.
In a real town hall, people get up in somewhat random order and just unfurl what’s on their mind. The networks think the stakes are far too high to walk that tightrope, especially in an age where social-media troublemakers can take anything viral, and the entire Democratic establishment is petrified Joe Biden could spontaneously combust in a horrible gaffe.
As FoxNews.com has reported, two of ABC’s Biden questioners had ties to Democrats. One was a speechwriter in the Obama administration. The other, presented as a physical therapist, was the wife of a high-profile Pennsylvania Democrat.
How hard is it for the networks to do some elementary Google searches before choosing their questioners? Or are these choices carefully planned and they hide these partisan identities hoping their “mistake” won’t be discovered?
This also happened at ABC's town hall for Donald Trump. Kutztown University professor Ellesia Blaque, a woman ABC repeatedly identified as "uncommitted" in its coverage of the town hall, complained at length about the need for ObamaCare.
The Washington Free Beacon found that on social media, she praised vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris during the primaries saying she would "be there, volunteering" for the California senator in Pennsylvania.
The English professor was not shy about her loathing of the president, calling Trump a "f—ing moron," "pathetic," "pig," "swine," and "punk ass." But after the ABC event, CNN's Brian Stelter extended the charade by quoting "undecided" Professor Blaque claiming Trump had powerfully "reanimated" her into voting for Biden.
At NBC’s Biden “town hall” on October 5, I quickly discovered several of the so-called “independent voters” Lester Holt was touting could be identified as Biden supporters by just searching their names and towns.
Their overtly pro-Biden or pro-abortion questions also made you scoff at the idea they were undecided. If the networks see these questions beforehand, they're not even trying to make them sound more "undecided."
After the debate, Ingrid Gilliam-Alexander posted her appearance on her LinkedIn page the hashtag “#joebiden2020.” Cassidy Brown posted “Vote Pro-Choice” memes on her Facebook page. Michelle Cruz Marrero was easily found on the Facebook page “Cubanos con Biden” gushing that “Biden was eloquent...He is intelligent. He is elegant. He is poised and he has a plan....We need Biden....He will save America and he will restore the country we had before this monster took over.”
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Worse yet, the Washington Free Beacon found two of the male “undecided voters” had appeared on MSNBC a few months ago, identified on-screen as Biden supporters!
So when NBC booked Trump for their town hall on Thursday, producers dropped the word “undecided” from the menu. But the voters almost vanished from the picture.
There was so much outrage inside the walls of NBC that moderator Savannah Guthrie took over the event. As someone complained to me on Twitter, "This wasn't a town hall. It was a hostile interview with spectators that were periodically allowed to chime in."
Hill media reporter Joe Concha says that his review of the transcript showed Guthrie asked President Trump 43 questions, and the voters were only granted ten. He noted this did not count her many interruptions to just make statements, like yelling at him "you're the president, you're not someone's crazy uncle!"
In this case, none of these sparsely used voters were easily exposed as something other than how they were presented by NBC.
Ever since the Commission on Presidential Debates started using a "town hall" format in 1992, we at the Media Research Center have found the networks have almost uniformly tilted the debates in favor of questioners who supported the Democrats and the liberal agenda. The only exception was 2008, when ABC's Charles Gibson managed to balance it at eight and eight.
Even if there had been a "town hall" debate with both Trump and Biden present, it's quite likely that it would be another loaded event against the Republicans.
In other words, it's just as biased as a normal debate with a "mainstream media" moderator, but it carries that annoying illusion that it's offering viewers a random assortment of voters with their random thoughts about politics.
Now that really would be “must see TV.”