As Ms. Guthrie prepared for her hot-seat moment, one of her “Today” predecessors declared that NBC had made the wrong call. “Having dueling town halls is bad for democracy — voters should be able to watch both and I don’t think many will,” Katie Couric wrote on Twitter.
Privately, anchors and producers inside NBC News said they were perplexed, and in some cases dismayed, by the decision to schedule Mr. Trump against Mr. Biden. They expressed pride in their coverage of Mr. Trump’s tenure, particularly given the president’s frequent taunting of MSNBC (“MSDNC”) and its parent company, Comcast (“Concast”).
At a rally in North Carolina on Thursday afternoon, Mr. Trump continued his attacks on Comcast, as well as the “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt, the “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd and Ms. Guthrie.
“She’s always lovely,” he said of Ms. Guthrie, with apparent sarcasm.
Of the town hall, Mr. Trump said, “They asked me if I’d do it, and I figured what the hell? We’ll get a free hour of television.”
A correspondent from the news division, Kristen Welker, was chosen to moderate the presidential debate scheduled for next week, making this the second presidential campaign in a row when an NBC journalist took charge of a general-election matchup. Producers said the scheduling snafu was an unwelcome reminder of the network’s missteps in the 2016 campaign.
In addition to Mr. Lauer’s forum, the news division faced criticism for allowing The Washington Post to scoop it on the notorious “Access Hollywood” tape that showed Mr. Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women; NBC News had obtained a copy of the video days before it was made public.