Speed Reads

Everyone's a critic

Matt Lauer did not get high marks for moderating the first Clinton-Trump event

"Twitter has a memo for NBC News," says CNN's Dylan Byers: "Don't send Matt Lauer to do a political journalist's job." Lauer interviewed Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump back-to-back on Wednesday night at a forum sponsored by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the first event this election featuring both major-party nominees. "It was a high-stakes political moment, far from the chummier confines of the Today show and, for Matt Lauer, NBC's stalwart of the morning, a chance to prove his broadcasting mettle on the presidential stage, says Michael M. Grynbaum at The New York Times. "The consensus afterward was not kind."

Specifically, reporters, pundits, and other observers criticized Lauer for letting Trump get away with stating falsely that he always opposed the Iraq War, generally lobbing softball or open-ended questions at the Republican nominee, and declining to follow up when Trump evaded ones he did not like. On the other hand, Lauer was seen as being aggressive and single-minded with Clinton. "Liberals and conservatives were split about Lauer's decision to open his questioning of Clinton with the controversy over her private email server," Byers said. "But when the issue persisted 10 minutes into the 30-minute segment, and he was later forced to tell Clinton to be 'brief' on the subject of ISIS, he was slammed for dedicating so much time to the topic."

"Lauer's performance was not merely a failure, it was horrifying and shocking," says New York's Jonathan Chait. "Most voters, and all the more so undecided voters, subsist on a news diet supplied by the likes of Matt Lauer. And the reality transmitted to them from Lauer matches the reality of the polls, which is a world in which Clinton and Trump are equivalently flawed."

"NBC spokespeople did not respond to a request for comment regarding Lauer's performance, or why Chuck Todd, the network's political director and host of Meet The Press was not asked to moderate the forum," Byers says. "Lauer's performance seemed to preview the troubles that television moderators could face in balancing fairness with accountability," especially in the debates, Grynbaum adds. "If Mr. Lauer — who was passed over to host a debate in favor of his NBC colleague Lester Holt — was seeking a piece of the moderator experience, he got it. Warts and all."