NBC News’ Lester Holt had his “Candy Crowley” moment at the first debate of the 2016 presidential election on Monday night, bowing to pressure from the Hillary Clinton campaign and the liberal media by “fact-checking” Republican nominee Donald Trump on the question of his support for the Iraq War.
Holt lived up to the expectations of his peers. But he lived down to the worst expectations of conservatives, who routinely see Republican candidates treated unfairly by debate moderators.
Again and again, Holt asked Trump tough questions that were straight from the Clinton campaign’s talking points, and which were obvious set-ups for Clinton to attack (and for fact-checkers to pounce on whatever Trump asserted in his own defense).
Here are the five worst examples.
Tax returns. Holt never asked Clinton about her e-mail scandal, about Benghazi, or about the Clinton Foundation and its dubious dealings. But he did ask Trump about his tax returns, arguing — not asking — that there might be questionable information in them that the American public deserved to hear.
Birther conspiracy theory. Holt never asked Clinton about her past record of racist statements, including her “super-predator” remarks as First Lady, or her explicit appeal to “white Americans” in her 2008 primary campaign against Obama. Yet he asked Trump about the Birther conspiracy theory and cast it as racist.
Stop-and-frisk. After an exchange between the candidates over the policy of “stop-and-frisk,” Holt interjected to bolster Clinton’s point by stating, erroneously, that stop-and-frisk had ended in New York because it had been declared unconstitutional by a court. Trump countered, correctly, that the new mayor had canceled the policy before the litigation was over.
“A presidential look.” Towards the end of the debate, Holt asked Trump about what he meant by saying Hillary Clinton did not have “a presidential look.” He did so after noting that Clinton had become “the first woman” to be nominated for president by a major political party, thus setting Trump up as a sexist. As Trump answered, Holt interrupted him, then gave Clinton a chance to respond with her talking points about Trump’s past comments on women.
Iraq War. The question of whether Trump supported the Iraq War or not has been widely debated. What is beyond doubt is that Hillary Clinton voted for it. Holt only represented one side of the debate about Trump, and never asked Clinton about her own vote.
In addition, the audience repeatedly interjected — almost always in Clinton’s favor — and Holt did not stop them, though it was against the rules. He only stopped the audience when there were cheers for Trump calling for Clinton’s emails.
Bow again, Lester Holt. You did your job.