Did Matt Lauer Suck Last Night?
This morning the media-- at least the Twitter media-- was plotzing because Gary Johnson, asked on Morning Joe what he would do about Aleppo if he were elected, professed not to know what Aleppo is. I'd bet anything that neither Trumpanzee nor the bulk of the Trumpanzee fan base have any idea what Aleppo is either. Trump's campaign is pretty much a fact-free zone anyway and the media has blithely let him get away with it for
Matt Lauer's morning infotainment show isn't exactly a place someone should go for hard news-- unless it was hard news about a dispute between the Kardashians and the Shahs of Sunset cast. Why NBC would pick him to moderate a serious forum is head-scratching to begin with. Why not someone with a real grasp of facts and concepts on the NBC News team-- like Chris Hayes? As Washington Post chief fact-checker Glenn Kessler tweeted last night, Lauer let Trump's bogus claims just slide right by. This morning he and Michelle Ye Hee Lee corrected Lauer's cascade of factual malfeasance. First up was Trump's oft-told lie about opposing the War in Iraq. "It is perplexing to The Fact Checker," the two fact checkers wrote, "when interviewers like Matt Lauer don’t rebut Trump on this point, which is one of the simplest facts to debunk. Lauer has little excuse for letting this pass unchallenged. The truth is that Trump did not oppose the Iraq War since before the August 2004 Esquire story (which was 17 months after the invasion). We have a Four Pinocchio fact-check on this issue, a timeline of all of Trump’s comments prior to the invasion in March 2003, and even a video documenting how this is a bogus claim. We have found no evidence of his early opposition. Trump expressed lukewarm support the first time he was asked about it on Sept. 11, 2002, and was not clearly against it until he was quoted in the August 2004 Esquire cover story titled “Donald Trump: How I’d Run the Country (Better).”
They went on to list Trumpanzee lies from last night that included his nonsense about sexual assaults in the military, his kindergarten-level interpretation of how ISIS was formed, his bizarre "take the oil" rants, a crackpot attack on the entire American officer corps (minus Trumpanzee officers who have all-- every one of them-- been retired, some forcefully), a false claim that Putin called him brilliant (rather than "colorful," as in "look at that colorful freak show the Americans might elect"), and a couple of other bogus claims Lauer let him get away with last night.
God knows what kind of a circus the three debates are going to turn into-- one of which is being moderated by a Fox propagandist! This morning Michael Grynbaum took up Lauer's very noticeable incompetence and sexism for NY Times readers. And his shockingly subservient posture towards Trumpanzee. "Trump," he wrote, "stormed onstage in his familiar motor-mouth style, often talking over Mr. Lauer and declining to directly answer many of his questions. At times, Mr. Lauer-- who has conducted fewer adversarial interviews with Mr. Trump than his colleagues on NBC’s political desk-- appeared flummoxed by his subject’s linguistic feints." He pointed out that criticism of Lauer that poured in during and after the forum "captured what has become a common complaint about media coverage during this election: that news organizations and interviewers treat Mrs. Clinton as a serious candidate worthy of tough questions, while Mr. Trump is sometimes handled more benignly... [W]ith the formal debates set to begin on Sept. 26, Mr. Lauer’s performance seemed to preview the troubles that television moderators could face in balancing fairness with accountability. Mr. Trump, with his Houdini-like ability to squirm out of direct answers, is a particularly tough subject for interviewers, who will be forced to determine on the fly when to interrupt with a prime-time fact-check. Chris Wallace, the Fox News anchor who will handle the third presidential debate, drew criticism this week when he said, 'I don’t view my role as truth-squading.' If Mr. Lauer-- who was passed over to host a debate in favor of his NBC colleague Lester Holt-- was seeking a piece of the moderator experience, he got it. Warts and all."
Let me say goodnight with the first astonishing paragraph of Jonathan Chait's New York Magazine analysis of the Lauer forum. Chew on this:
I had not taken seriously the possibility that Donald Trump could win the presidency until I saw Matt Lauer host an hour-long interview with the two major-party candidates. Lauer’s performance was not merely a failure, it was horrifying and shocking. The shock, for me, was the realization that most Americans inhabit a very different news environment than professional journalists. I not only consume a lot of news, since it’s my job, I also tend to focus on elite print-news sources. Most voters, and all the more so undecided voters, subsist on a news diet supplied by the likes of Matt Lauer. And the reality transmitted to them from Lauer matches the reality of the polls, which is a world in which Clinton and Trump are equivalently flawed.