Carl Bernstein Bashes NBC for ‘Allowing Itself to Get Conned’ Into Trump Town Hall

Journalist says town halls are meant to serve voters — “not the whims or wishes of the candidates”

Last Updated: October 15, 2020 @ 10:36 AM

Carl Bernstein called out NBC for agreeing to host President Trump’s town hall on Thursday at the same time as Joe Biden’s airs on ABC, criticizing the network for “allowing itself to get conned by Donald Trump.”

The respected investigative journalist and author, who himself was ABC’s Washington Bureau Cheif from 1980-81, detailed everything he found wrong with NBC’s decision in a seven-part Twitter thread on Wednesday.

“How is that NBC News has allowed itself to get conned by Donald Trump and (as of 11 pm Wednesday) continues to abrogate the public trust by not re-scheduling or taping-and-delaying broadcast, or canceling if Trump continues to demand the network’s obeisance?” he wrote. “First Trump evades debate commission rules and protocols; then NBC allows him a town hall on equal footing with Biden.”

Bernstein, who is also an alum of the Washington Post where he, along with Bob Woodward, spearheaded the paper’s reporting on the 1972 Watergate scandal, stressed that “since JFK v. Nixon,” the point of debates and town halls “is to serve the voters–not the whims or wishes of the candidates.”

He added: “Not bifurcate the audience to the obvious advantage of one candidate and capitulate to that candidate’s demands. If that candidate threatens to walk away over something like this, he should be shown the door.”

The “All the President’s Men” and frequent political commentator on CNN noted that NBC’s move will diminish Biden’s audience and set up “a ratings war tailored for Trump to win and crow about,” and added that NBC has cable outlets like MSNBC and CNBC, while ABC has none.

Bernstein also spoke from experience: While serving as Washington Bureau Chief of ABC, he and the CBS and NBC bureau chiefs “made decisions that neither POTUS Carter nor POTUS Reagan could get free airtime,” and that “our networks would not let even the President dictate how and when we covered him: and we resisted being manipulated.”

Now, he says, “Forty years after we established the principle, NBC has been manipulated and conned.”

Reps for NBC News have insisted that “the Trump campaign did not dictate or request the time slot, nor express any preference.”

Bernstein is not alone in his criticism of NBC. Former NBC News executive Cheryl Gould said she was “disgusted” by the network’s decision to host Trump’s town hall; CNN’s Don Lemon called it “an outright embarrassing ratings ploy,” and Jimmy Kimmel joked on Wednesday night that NBC might as well air a “new Bill Cosby special while we’re at it.”

Click below to read Bernstein’s full thread.