Matt Lauer is facing criticism for agreeing to moderate an upcoming town hall with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, despite a reported conflict of interest as a former member of the Clinton Global Initiative, but NBC insiders say that’s not true.
The insiders told TheWrap that Lauer’s only association with the CGI was a “Today” show interview with Bill Clinton that happened to take place at an Initiative event.
Last year, Mediaite reported that several prominent media members were listed among “notable past members” of the CGI. Maria Bartiromo, Tom Brokaw, Anderson Cooper, Greta Van Susteren and George Stephanopoulos joined Lauer on the list. The Clinton Foundation website notes that membership costs $20,000 per year but is sometimes complementary, which would clearly be an issue if true in Lauer’s case.
One insider noted that the page mentioning the “Today” show host has been removed from the Clinton Foundation website.
Conservative pundits have pointed to this as an example of media bias or conflict of interest, but the Clinton Foundation said that journalists who participate in CGI events are not asked to pay a membership fee, according to Mediaite. Between that and the fact that Lauer was evidently never officially involved, it seems that the NBC personality is in the clear.
In addition, Trump was under no obligation to accept his invite to the Commander-in-Chief Forum and it should be noted that the GOP nominee appears regularly on Van Susteren’s show. Trump has said he won’t participate in a presidential debate if the moderators aren’t fair, so it’s safe to assume that he looked into Lauer’s past before agreeing to the town hall.
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment. NBC News declined to comment.
Trump and Clinton will appear together in the first joint event of the 2016 general election to take questions on national security, military affairs and veterans’ issues from a live audience comprised of service members and veterans on Wednesday, Sept. 7 at 8 p.m. ET on both NBC and MSNBC. The event will be held at New York’s Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.