Add Shakina Nayfack to the chorus of voices speaking out against NBC’s upcoming town hall with President Donald Trump.
The star of NBC’s comedy “Connecting …” offered a blistering rebuke of the event in a series of tweets, saying she was “disgusted by my home network for giving Trump a platform for fear mongering, bigotry [and] disinformation.”
She specifically called out the hypocrisy of NBC touting her as a transgender performer at the same time it showcases a candidate whose policies would “abolish my rights.”
NBC’s town hall with Trump will air Thursday night, putting it in direct competition with ABC’s similar event with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. The two events take the place of the canceled second presidential debate, which was to be hosted by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates.
The debate was to take place virtually but got called off after Trump, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 3, refused to participate.
Nayfack, whose television credits include “Difficult People” and “The Detour,” stressed on Twitter that she plans to vote for Biden. Still, she was critical of both ABC and NBC’s decision to foster an “echo chamber of rhetoric” and said she believed Trump and Biden should face off in a second debate.
“These days leading up to the election should be about the exchange and comparison of ideas and policy,” she wrote, “not ratings and stoking division.”
Moments later, she added:
“Trump pulled out of the debate to destabilize the election,” they wrote on Twitter Wednesday. “I understand NBC is required to give him an hour of prime time but request that they reschedule it so that America can watch both.”
More than 100 other Hollywood heavyweights — including Seth MacFarlane, Julianne Moore and Amy Schumer — reportedly submitted an open letter to NBC early Thursday asking for the town hall to at least be shifted from its time slot.
In spite of the backlash, NBC News Group Chairman Cesar Conde said in a Thursday statement that the network will proceed with the town hall as planned. “Our decision is motivated only by fairness, not business considerations,” he wrote.
“Connecting …,” which debuted on NBC Oct. 8, follows a group of socially distant friends who are staying connected during the COVID-19 pandemic through video chat. Nayfack’s portrayal of Ellis — described as “a trans woman living alone and trying to navigate life in quarantine” — reportedly makes her the first transgender series regular on a prime-time comedy on network TV.
“I think we have a unique opportunity to introduce the world to a new trans woman for whom many people will be their first experience getting to know a trans woman,” she told The Advocate in an interview published last week. “I like to stay away from the narratives of, like, you know, ‘first achievement’ and think more about the legacy that we are building together as a community of trans actors fighting for representation for the rest of us out in the world.”
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