NEW YORK — NBC agreed Monday to give four Republican presidential candidates free time on affiliates in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina after they complained Donald Trump unfairly benefited from appearing as "Saturday Night Live" host earlier this month.
The network said John Kasich, Mike Huckabee, James Gilmore and Lindsey Graham each will get about 12 minutes of time to tout their candidacies during prime time on Friday and Saturday, and during this week's "Saturday Night Live."
Republican George Pataki also had complained, but the network did not announce an agreement with his campaign.
The candidates will get the time on each of the 18 NBC stations in those three states, where early GOP nominating caucuses or primaries are being held.
The candidates said they deserved the time to counter Trump's appearance in a non-news setting, based on federal equal time provisions. Trump was "SNL" host on Nov. 7, and NBC calculated that Trump had some 12 minutes of screen time during the comedy show.
Trump already is familiar to NBC viewers as the former host of that network's "Celebrity Apprentice" show.
The decision doesn't come cheap for NBC; the free time will be taken out of time set aside for network commercials and promotions. The network did not say whether it will edit the candidates' messages.
Although NBC has not announced an agreement with Pataki, the former New York governor said in a letter to campaign supporters that NBC had granted his campaign's request for equal time.
"This amounts to literally hundreds of thousands of dollars of free advertising on NBC affiliates," Pataki wrote.