The mainstream media are satisfied with NBC News’ Lester Holt’s performance as moderator at the first debate of the 2016 presidential contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Holt faced unrelenting pressure from the Clinton campaign and the liberal media to “fact-check” Trump — and Holt did just that, serving as a Clinton campaign surrogate for most of the evening. And his press corps peers are pleased: Politico’s Hadas Gold actually claimed: “Lester Holt stays out of the way.”
In reality, however, Holt was even worse than CNN’s Candy Crowley, who famously fact-checked Mitt Romney (incorrectly) in the second presidential debate in 2012. Crowley only intervened once, while Holt interjected five times to “correct” Trump, often with false information. The most egregious example was when Holt claimed that New York’s “stop-and-frisk” policy had been declared unconstitutional. Trump pushed back, correctly noting that the courts had never settled the issue because New York’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, had dropped the policy despite ample evidence that it had slashed crime in the city.
Many of Holt’s questions for Trump were straight out of the Clinton campaign’s talking points, setting up the Democratic nominee for a well-rehearsed ambush. He asked Trump about his tax returns and the Birther theory, and even cast Trump’s past criticism of Clinton as sexist. Holt never asked Clinton about her emails, about the Benghazi terror attack, or about the Clinton Foundation. He also pressed Trump on his statements about the Iraq War, never asking Clinton about her actual vote.
Gold notes that Holt never asked Trump about his immigration policies, either. But that was because when Trump tried to turn the conversation towards immigration, Hold turned it back to Barack Obama’s birth certificate:
TRUMP: Because I want to get on to defeating ISIS, because I want to get on to creating jobs, because I want to get on to having a strong border, because I want to get on to things that are very important to me and that are very important to the country.
HOLT: I will let you respond. It’s important. But I just want to get the answer here. The birth certificate was produced in 2011. You’ve continued to tell the story and question the president’s legitimacy in 2012, ’13, ’14, ’15…
Moreover, as one observer noted, while Trump faced six follow-up questions, Clinton faced none. It is true that Holt “stayed out of the way” — out of Clinton’s way. But Holt did his best to make himself an obstacle between Donald Trump and the presidency. He undermined his credibility as a newsman, but earned a place in journalism’s left-wing elite.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, is available from Regnery through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.