The Today host is getting flak for firing fastballs at Hillary Clinton and lobbing softballs at Donald Trump on Tuesday night. But Lauer might not be the only one to blame.
Somewhere, Ann Curry must be smiling.
Not since NBC News star Matt Lauer was accused of orchestrating his Today indicate cohosts firingfour years agoa widely reported charge that he was at pains to deny, even though Currys body language during her on-air parting apparently corroborated ithas Lauer assimilated so much abuse from the chattering class.
Unlike last time, however, he cannot distance himself from his much-criticized performance moderating the NBC/ MSNBCCommander-in-Chief national security forumin which he appeared to hurl fastballs at Hillary Clinton, drilling down on her persisting email problems, while going easy on Donald Trump, allowing the Republican presidential nominee to utter one unchallenged falsity after anothernotably his easily contradicted claimthat he never supported President George W. Bushs military adventure in Iraq.
Indeed, a real-time analysis of the candidates affirmations by PolitiFact indicated that Trump was a veritable conflagration of Pants on Fire, with 44 of its statement of claim earning that worst designation, while Clinton garnered only six.( Despite her reputation for political deception, the great majority of the Democrats statements were deemed true, mostly true, or half true, while Trumps truth-to-lie ratio was the polar opposite .)
Interviewing the candidates back to back in 26 -minute segments, with occasional questions posed by military veterans in the studio audience, Lauer let Trumps answers speak for themselvesthe moral equivalent, some would argue, of a campaign video.
Its not a good day for Matt Lauer, former CNN Washington bureau chief Frank Sesno told The Daily Beast on Thursday. He was just more forward-deployed with Hillary Clinton than he was with Donald Trump. Running after her for the umpteenth time on her emails, and not running after him when he says he never favored the Iraq War, is just this side of egregious.
Sesno, the director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, agreed that Lauers difficulties might serve as a piquant object lesson for the recently choice moderators of the three broadcasted presidential debates and one vice presidential debate scheduled to air from late September through mid-October.
They have to be fiercely prepared, he said about the moderators, who include NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt, ABCs Martha Raddatz and CNNs Anderson Cooper, and Fox Newss Chris Wallace. They have to be prepared on the issues. They have to be prepared on the atmospherics. They have to be prepared on the personalities. And they have to be prepared to ten-strike their own very disciplined, important voice for completeness and accuracy in the answers that they get.
University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato, meanwhile, said being submitted to occasionally unjust criticism is part of a moderators portfolio.
They know theyre going to get loadings of criticism no matter what they do, and they have to accept that, he said. Are they going to let the candidate roam freely and ignore the issues to, and misstate the facts, or are they going to intervene, and to what degree? They have to think about this.
Despite Lauers ample talents as a broadcaster, and his long experience as a generalist, anchoring live from crime scenes and natural disasters, and interviewing everyone from Kardashians to world leaders in six-minute slices, the 58 -year-old Today host is not a political journalist, and theres scant evidence that he spends time on the campaign trail or regularly topics himself to detailed issue briefings by campaign policy staffers.
While he and co-host Savannah Guthrie, a former NBC White House correspondent, have interviewed Trump several times during the 2016 campaign, most often when the candidate has called in to the program, Lauer, like the majority of members of Trumps interrogators, seems not to have figured out how to prevent current realities TV billionaire from filibustering and building boastings, untethered to facts.
In an event aboard the decommissioned aircraft carrier Intrepid, the Today host was lost at sea, New York Times television critic James Poniewozik wrote in a barbarian review that encapsulated the media-political complex harsh verdict on Lauers handiwork. Seemingly unprepared on military and foreign policy specifics, he performed like a soldier sent on a mission without ammunition, beginning with a disorganized offensive, ending in a humiliating retreat.
Even NBC News, confronted by a fusillade of censure aimed at its most important and highest-paid commoditysaid to be earning upward of $20 million a yeardeclined to publicly defend Lauers performance.