Activists Petition Lester Holt to Challenge Donald Trump, Fact-Check Debate

Thos Robinson/Getty Images for The Buoniconti Fund
Thos Robinson/Getty Images for The Buoniconti Fund

As NBC News debate moderator Lester Holt gears up for the biggest night of his journalistic life, anti-Donald Trump voices are pressuring him to intercede in the Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton debate to “fact-check” Trump’s statements.

For weeks, conservatives have feared a “Candy Crowley moment” from Holt, whose alleged pro-Clinton bias could potentially swing the result of the debate in Clinton’s favor. The fear stemmed from intense media backlash toward Matt Lauer, who chose not to play fact-checker when he moderated a “Commander in Chief” forum and also asked Clinton about her email scandal.

The Clinton campaign is making a concerted last-minute push to pressure Holt. Communications director Jennifer Palmieri told reporters on a conference call that Trump will have an “unfair advantage” if Holt does not step in to play judge and jury in the debate. Trump said that the media are “trying to intimidate Lester.”

But the media are not alone in applying pressure to Holt, who took over the NBC anchor’s chair after Brian Williams’ false-anecdotes scandal and has yet to distinguish himself in a meaningful way on the political stage.

More than 70,000 people, as of this writing, have signed or supported petitions calling on Holt to directly fact-check Tump’s statements: petition posted by “Brian Stewart” to “Ask Lester Holt and other debate moderators to do better than Matt Lauer and fact-check Trump’s lies”: 62,385 signatures:

Presidential forum and debate moderators have an obligation to hold candidates accountable and correct misinformation. NBC News and its on-camera personality Matt Lauer botched this job during its September 7 Commander in Chief Forum. Respected NBC anchor Lester Holt, who has a long track record of journalistic integrity, moderates the first presidential debate later this month. We encourage Holt and every other presidential debate moderator–Martha Raddatz (ABC News), Anderson Cooper (CNN), and Chris Wallace (Fox News)–to avoid repeating Lauer’s mistakes and to instead ask serious, substantial questions and hold candidates accountable with real-time fact checking of misleading and factually inaccurate statements. petition posted by Kailey Luz directed at NBC and Lester Holt: “Don’t Let Donald Lie: Fact-Check the Presidential Debate!”: 11,414 supporters:

On Thursday, Donald Trump told commentators he didn’t believe the upcoming presidential debate should be fact-checked. Rather than be held accountable for claims he makes, Trump said we need a moderator who will just “let them argue it out.

Donald Trump wants to lie in the presidential debates and we have to convince NBC and Lester Holt to call him out on it. petition posted by Marian DiFabbio: “No Lies Allowed at Debates. #LieNoMore”: 45 supporters:

We, and many others who watched the NBC Town Hall forum, moderated by Matt Lauer, were appalled by the “pass” given to Donald Trump when he blatantly lied about his support for the Iraq War. Lauer never corrected him, even thought [sic] the record was clear. Trump lied about his earlier stance on the war. We were also angered when Lauer sat in silence as Trump repeatedly violated the ground rules for this forum.


NBC, and Mr. Holt, we send you this petition to urge you to thoroughly research the candidates’ positions, and pledge to intervene when a candidate repeatedly lies about facts during this debate. We expect as much from the moderators of such an important broadcast.#LieNoMore petition to NBC and Hofstra University posted by “S. Ladd” to “Stand Up To Trump! Keep Lester Holt as a moderator!”: 5 supporters:

It has been well known for some time that Donald J. Trump, the Republican candidate for the Presidency, has raised many objections to the current debate schedule over the past several months, often based on the most spurious & trivial objections.


NBC News and Hofstra University must stand firm; they must not allow Mr. Trump to bully them, simply because he can’t handle the pressure. And if enough people can get the word out, we can show the world that we will not stand for Trump’s temper tantrums.

Other petitions are calling for Holt to address certain issues in the debate, like the group republicEN’s open letter to “ask the right climate question.”

Team Trump could have some serious concerns about Holt’s presence in the national spotlight. Breitbart News reported:

Lester Holt is up first. He gets Trump and Clinton at Hofstra University in New York on September 26.

It was originally supposed to be held at Wright State University in the battleground state of Ohio. But university president David Hopkins had to withdraw due to “rising security costs” of up to $11 million that the college had to pay. Hopkins, chastened, thanked Hofstra for at least allowing 15 Wright State students to attend the debate in New York.

Hofstra has given Bill Clinton at least six figures for speaking fees. When Clinton spoke at Hofstra, the university touted him as a legendary “New Democrat’ from Hope.”

At NBC News, Lester Holt replaced Brian Williams during a time of scandal. But he is working to establish himself as something other than a mere Gerald Ford caretaker of the anchor’s chair.

Holt asked Hillary Clinton if she ever gets her “feelings hurt” due to the Republican attacks on her. Referring to a young person in a town hall event who said that his generation feels Clinton is dishonest, Holt said to Clinton, “And when he said that I winced.”

Newsbusters flagged Holt for a number of comments during the campaign that should make the Trump team very nervous about the primetime exposure that he is getting. Particularly, comments that Holt made when he managed to interview The Donald to his face once at Trump Tower.


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