Bozell & Graham Column: Lester Holt Learns His Lauer Lesson

September 27th, 2016 10:39 PM

Washington Post political correspondent Chris Cillizza should win some kind of award for the worst pre-debate spin. He tried to defend NBC anchor Lester Holt: “It turns out Holt is actually a registered Republican. Trump still might find things to complain about Monday night, but a case for partisan bias against him will be tough to make.”

Right after the debate, despite all evidence, Cillizza doubled down: “Want a testament to how well Holt did? I guarantee you no one is talking about him tomorrow. That's a win.”

That is precisely as the press would want this. But that’s not what America saw. Holt’s performance was a partisan disgrace. Holt asked Donald Trump about his taxes, then challenged him on his answer. He asked Trump about stop-and-frisk policies, then challenged him, stating it was ruled unconstitutional, which it wasn’t – thus conjuring visions of the Candy Crowley Ghost of Flubbing Debate Moderators Past. He asked him about the birther issue, then challenged him on his answer. He asked him about Iraq and then interrupted and challenged him five different times. 

What about Hilllary? There was not one single, solitary challenge to anything she said, not one tough question on any policy or any controversy, be it Benghazi, the Clinton Foundation, her medical records, the e-mails – unless you want to count Holt urging her politely, “he also raised the issue of your e-mails. You want to respond to that?”

The Rasmussen poll that came out just before the debate showed that based on the historical record, 46 percent of Americans believed the moderators would tilt the debates in favor of Clinton. Only six percent suggested they will try to help Trump instead. That’s an 8-to-1 landslide. 

Lester Holt confirmed the wisdom of the American people.

It became obvious that Holt internalized all the howls of outrage from the liberal media against Matt Lauer for being even-handed with the candidates at a “commander-in-chief forum” earlier in the month. Both The New York Times and The Washington Post wrote anguished staff editorials. He even might have heard Jimmy Kimmel rant at Apprentice creator Mark Burnett as he hosted the Emmy Awards that NBC made this man a star: “We don't have to watch reality shows anymore because we're living in one.” 

Holt’s colleagues – and Clinton’s campaign – said very publicly: You must go after Trump as a clear and present danger to America. That’s exactly what Holt did.

On the morning after this one-sided assault, his colleagues in the liberal media projected an image of Holt as mellow and reserved, and therefore nonpartisan. The New York Times headline was “Lester Holt Opted for Restraint.” Reporter Michael Grynbaum began: “Call him the minimalist moderator.” He added he “opted to lie low.” He was “silent for minutes at a time.” The reported a liberal parody from The New Yorker: “CNN Launches Manhunt After Lester Holt Vanishes From Debate.”

To stick to its “minimalist moderator” spin, the Times chose to ignore most of the debate. Weeks before, Grynbaum wrote an anguished piece after the Lauer forum headlined “Lauer Fields Storm of Criticism Over Clinton-Trump Forum.” He even quoted tweets that mangled the facts: “Lauer interrupted Clinton’s answers repeatedly to move on. Not once for Trump,” claimed Norman Ornstein. In fact, Lauer interrupted Trump 13 times, Hillary seven times. 

The only similarity in the stories was that Grynbaum failed to locate an actual conservative or Republican critique of either NBC journalist. That’s because the liberal media can’t help but slant everything in favor of the Left. It’s no wonder most Americans no longer trust them.