Democrats and Republicans seemed to agree on one thing after NBC’s presidential town hall Wednesday: Matt Lauer was an awful moderator.
If the mark of journalistic fairness is that people on both sides of the audience dislike you with equal vehemence, then the “Today” host was very, very fair.
Hillary Clinton supporters blasted him for not challenging Donald Trump when the Republican wrongly claimed he opposed the Iraq invasion all along. Trump’s backers said Lauer gave Clinton a pass while treating their candidate with disrespect.
“How can someone like @MLauer not set the record straight on Trump’s bogus claim of being against the war in Iraq?” asked Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler.
“Probably a good thing that @MLauer won’t be a debate moderator,” tweeted GOP pollster Frank Luntz.
“@MLauer didn’t ask Hillary about her Classified briefings & how it relates to her political commitment to not send troops to a conflict,” said Richard Grenell, a spokesman for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign.
“I think @MLauer was trying desperately to impress others in the press to prove he’s not just a morning show lightweight. Failed,” said Vanity Fair’s Kurt Eichenwald.
Vox blasted: “Matt Lauer totally blew it on Trump’s blatant lying about Iraq and Libya.”
Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski, who first tracked down the 2002 Howard Stern interview in which Trump expressed his support for the Iraq invasion, was more muted.
"I was totally against the war in Iraq," Trump says, saying something that is not true. Matt Lauer offers no follow up.— andrew kaczynski (@BuzzFeedAndrew) September 8, 2016
A “Today” show representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The moment that got Lauer the most grief from Democrats came when Trump asserted that he was “totally against the war on Iraq.” Trump cited an interview with Esquire Magazine in 2004 and statements “before that” as evidence.
But Trump told Howard Stern in 2002 that he was in favor of the Iraq War.
During a radio interview, Stern asked Trump, “Are you for invading Iraq?”
Trump answered, “Yeah, I guess so.”
It was unclear why Lauer didn’t bring up the Stern interview — though Clinton herself had said that Trump was dishonest when he said he opposed the invasion all along.
Trump and Clinton appeared separately at the forum, which was organized by the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and broadcast on NBC and MSNBC.