Critics are accusing moderator Lester Holt of teaming up with Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump as a “third debater” Monday night, but the NBC News anchor has a history of displaying bias not only against the Republican nominee but his party as well.
When it was announced Sept. 6 that Holt would moderate the first of three presidential debates in the 2016 general election campaign, the Media Research Center pulled out examples of Holt’s bias from its archives, including his unequal treatment of Trump and Clinton in separate sit-down interviews.
In a “Nightly News” interview in May, Holt, who took over for Brian Williams in June 2015, peppered Trump with a series of questions, ending with “your negatives are staggering.”
Yet, in an interview with Clinton in January, Holt followed up a clip of a Bernie Sanders supporter stating “young people don’t trust you” with: “Do you get your feelings hurt sometimes?”
Monday night at Hofstra University in New York, critics pointed out, Holt asked no questions about the scandal surrounding Clinton’s private email server and her handling of classified information, the pay-for-play Clinton Foundation scandal, the Libya-Benghazi disaster and cover-up, or Clinton’s health.
Meanwhile Holt pressed Trump on his support of “stop-and-frisk,” the birther issue, his negative comments about women, his bankruptcies and why he hasn’t released his tax returns. Holt challenged Trump at least six times with follow-up questions, according to the Washington Examiner’s count, while Clinton got no follow-up questions in the 90-minute debate.
Trump himself tweeted: “Nothing on emails. Nothing on the corrupt Clinton Foundation. And nothing on #Benghazi.”
MRC noted that in his career as an NBC News anchor, including in his weekend and fill-in roles, Holt has celebrated Obama administration policies:
- Dreams of amnesty (Feb. 17, 2015): “The showdown over immigration takes a dramatic turn: A last-minute ruling dashes American dreams for millions of families under the threat of deportation.”
- Surviving the Republicans (Sept. 2, 2015): “In a major win for the Obama administration, the nuclear deal with Iran now appears unstoppable. The President has now locked down all the votes he needs for the controversial agreement to survive in the Republican-controlled Senate.”
- Republican “fear talk” (Nov. 19, 2015): “Heightened fears in the U.S. over Syrian refugees in the wake of the Paris attacks led the House to approve a bill today that would virtually halt all Syrian refugees from coming into the U.S. As NBC’s Andrea Mitchell shows us, the Republican frontrunners drummed up the fear talk today to a new level.”
- Climate “refugees” (Sept. 1, 2015): “Our team on an extraordinary journey to a place that is rapidly disappearing. Families bracing to flee what could be the first American refugees of climate change. … It’s an emergency at the top of the world right now, and Americans are right on the front lines. Up next, our journey to a spectacular place on Earth where American families are living in fear as a rapidly changing climate threatens into inundate them.”
- Your SUV WMD (Dec. 17, 2003): “Is your SUV a weapon of terrorism? Some people think so. They’re taking out ads to tell you why. Coming up in our next half-hour, is your SUV a weapon of mass destruction?”
In his May 4 interview with Trump, Holt asked the then-primary candidate:
- “You were sitting here watching the top of the broadcast with us. You saw images of Republicans burning their Republican registration cards. So angry at the idea of you representing the party. What did you think when you saw that?”
- “You’re speaking to the whole country now. You said things that shocked people, outraged people, about a temporary ban on Muslim immigration, to your characterizations of Mexican immigrants. Those things worked for you. They resonated. They worked. They got you to where you are today. But as you try to appeal to the entire country, do you stand by them? Do you stand, for example, behind the idea of a ban against foreign Muslims coming here?
- “Your negatives are staggering. Disapproval 69 percent women, African-Americans, 88 percent, Latinos 79 percent, people under 34, 75 percent disapprove. How much of that is self-inflicted by some of the rhetoric from the primary campaign, and how do you heal that while still respecting those who got you here?
See excerpts from Holt’s interviews with Trump and Clinton (Media Research Center):
In stark contrast, in his Jan. 29 interview with Clinton, Holt said:
- I want to ask you about a moment at the town hall the other day. A young man, a Bernie Sanders supporter, stood up and said young people don’t trust you. … And when he said that I winced. And I was wondering, you’ve obviously been in tough battles, political battles, but do you get your feelings hurt sometimes?”
- “What frustrates you the most about perceptions about you?”
MRC President Brent Bozell said that on Monday night, 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.”
“Holt continually challenged, fact-checked, and interrupted Trump and not once challenged Hillary,” he said. “Holt pounded Trump repeatedly on the birth certificate controversy, his position on Iraq, his tax returns, and whether or not Hillary looked presidential.”
Bozell asked: “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.”
The Atlantic reported Tuesday that viewers unhappy with the questions asked at Monday night’s debate will have the opportunity to submit questions of their own for the Oct. 9 debate, a town-hall style event.
The Commission on Presidential Debates, which oversees the debates, announced it will feature questions submitted online at PresidentialOpenQuestions.com in addition to those asked by the studio audience.