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Debate Watchers Ask ‘But Where Was Lester Holt?

Moderator Lester Holt. — REUTERS


Being a debate moderator is a difficult job. You can be too involved, not involved enough, and just about everything you do will prompt cries of bias from one side of the other. But even still, viewers of Monday night’s debate reserved a surprising level of ire for moderator Lester Holt.
During and in the hours following the first presidential debate between candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, more than half a million tweets mentioned NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt, or his Twitter handle, @lesterholtnbc.
Of those 550,821 tweets between 9:00 p.m. EST Monday, when the debate started, and 4:00 a.m. EST Tuesday, 13,500 used the word “biased.” Many more challenged his hosting ability.
Sentiment toward Holt during the debate reflected criticism from Trump surrogates. The Wall Street Journal reported that some complained that the NBC anchor raised several controversial issues surrounding things Trump said, or failed to do, in the past, and didn’t put the same caliber of questions to Clinton.
Other viewers were more scathing: Over 1,900 tweets mentioned the word “horrible,” and another 1,600 tweeted “joke.” The word “unfair” featured in 1,300 such tweets, while a further 900 used “pathetic.”
And when he wasn’t doing a bad job, viewers thought he was just absent. Almost 700 tweets simply asked: “Where is Lester Holt?” Many of those users were complaining that Holt failed to intervene on some occasions where Trump interrupted Clinton while she was answering questions, and where the two candidates spoke over one another.
According to CNN, the Commission on Presidential Debates, which has run every presidential debate since 1988, wanted the candidates to “challenge each other.”
During the 90-minute, commercial-free debate, Holt asked Trump why he continued to raise doubts about President Obama’s U.S. citizenship years after Obama produced his birth certificate in 2011. Holt also questioned Trump’s false claim that he was against the Iraq war and prodded the candidate over his decision to stall on releasing his tax returns.
Trump initially seemed pleased with Holt’s questions, telling reporters after the debate ended, “Honestly, I thought he did a great job.” However, Trump also tweeted an apparent criticism, listing off some of the topics Holt did not raise with Clinton: “Nothing on emails. Nothing on the corrupt Clinton Foundation. And nothing on #Benghazi.”
At the beginning of Monday’s debate, Holt said neither the candidates, nor the Commission on Presidential Debates, who chose him to moderate, knew the questions he would ask. However, he did say: “We are going to focus on many of the issues that voters tell us are most important, and we are going to press for specifics.”
The anchor warned that he would be unable to cover everything, and attempted to offset any criticism by reminding viewers there were two more presidential debates scheduled before election day
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