On Wednesday, September 7th, NBC News’s Matt Lauer hosted the Commander in Chief Forum onboard the U.S.S Intrepid, and almost immediately ignited a firestorm of controversy. Within hours of the Forum, a majority of the “mainstream media,” along with more left-wing outlets, hammered him for his moderation, claiming while he spent 10 minutes grilling Clinton for about emails, he let Trump get away with saying things like that Trump was against the war in Iraq, when in reality he supported it, and there are audio recordings proving it.
Meanwhile, news outlets like Breitbart, whose CEO is Trump’s campaign manager, asserted that Lauer was too soft on Clinton, and urged him to ask tougher questions. The only group satisfied with Lauer’s performance was Fox News, which extolled him as fair and balanced. It seems like the media in general can’t win this election cycle, with Trump consistently claiming bias, while Clinton’s campaign hammers outlets for perceived favoritism towards Trump. In any case, the forum served as a window into the madness that may ensue during the debates, when the moderators will have to keep the two candidates from killing each other, and maintain accuracy while also appearing neutral.
Trump has already attempted to poison the well for the debates, by claiming that debate moderator Lester Holt was a registered Democrat. Lester Holt is in fact a registered Republican, and soon Trump’s campaign manager was praising him, acting like nothing had happened. He also expressed a desire to have another moderator like Lauer, not wanting on-the-spot fact-checking. Meanwhile, Clinton expressed a desire to have instant fact checks of everything either candidate says.
This one forum and the reactions to it serve as a microcosm for the election as a whole, where cable news’ desire to earn money, and the desire to seem unbiased, unduly influence coverage of candidates. While Trump is hailed as presidential for not saying something offensive for a few days, every action Clinton takes is intensely scrutinized. All Trump has to do for the debates is not say anything egregious and he will be declared the winner, while Clinton will be forced to prove her trustworthiness to the entire country in order to win.