Media critics may have liked Lester Holt as moderator, but Donald Trump supporters are in a rage over the NBC newsman’s job at the first presidential debate on Monday.
Conservatives ripped Holt for failing to ask Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton about her email server use, as well as not pressing her on her answers about Mideast policy and her alleged failure to contain ISIS.
Many commentators suggested that Holt was mindful of the criticism that fellow NBC newsman Matt Lauer recently received for aggressively questioning Clinton during a town hall while seeming to lob softballs at Trump. Holt, these critics said, wanted to avoid the same treatment and ended up overcompensating.
Those were points that veteran conservative commentator Brent Bozell made in a statement issued just after the debate ended:
“Lester Holt clearly heard the cries of his colleagues in the liberal media to be tough on Trump and ease up on Hillary loud and clear,” Bozell wrote. “Holt continually challenged, fact-checked, and interrupted Trump and not once challenged Hillary. Holt pounded Trump repeatedly on the birth certificate controversy, his position on Iraq, his tax returns, and whether or not Hillary looked presidential. Where were the questions on the Clinton Foundation or Benghazi or her email server? These are the questions that drive right to the heart of whether Hillary is ready to be president and yet viewers tuning in tonight heard nothing about these important issues. Lester Holt failed in his role as a moderator. Period.”
Many Trump suppoters — and Hillary haters — agreed:
Lester holt is pure liberal trash https://t.co/7WJjo2Ol53
— Skankhunt42 (@mattycakes0231) September 27, 2016
This debate was just a major personal attack on Trump and ignored all of the substance. Lester Holt was in the bag for HRC.
— @MobiDuck (@compudoc13) September 27, 2016
– MisG (@MisSparkleQueen) September 27, 2016
– Diego (@lehhgoDiego) September 27, 2016
— Tony Clifton (@thetonyclifton1) September 27, 2016
But many professional pundits were much more complimentary toward Holt, showing again a gulf between media elites and Trump backers.
Lester Holt has done a fine job as moderator. Not too intrusive, moving this along, fact-checking when necessary. #debates
— Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) September 27, 2016
Trump raised eyebrows earlier this month when he labeled Holt a Democrat and suggested that he was therefore biased. In fact, Holt is a registered Republican, which Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said on Monday the candidate had not previously known.
“I don’t think he knew what Lester Holt’s registration was,” Conway said.