- REUTERS/Joe Raedle/Pool
After weeks of arguments about the proper role of a presidential debate moderator, Lester Holt’s performance during the first presidential debate appeared to go over successfully.
Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, told CNN that he was satisfied with Holt’s performance.
“I thought Lester did a great job,” Trump said. When asked by CNN whether the questions were fair, the real-estate mogul said he “thought it was great.”
Many observers from various political stripes claimed that the NBC anchor effectively modulated his role, pushing and fact-checking both Trump and Hillary Clinton occasionally, but largely refraining from definitively ruling in favor for either candidate.
“I’ve been there. I thought Lester Holt did a fine job,” Fox News host Megyn Kelly said shortly after the debate concluded.
“Conservatives should agree @LesterHoltNBC did a very fine job moderating. He pushed on birther issue and Iraq War but gave plenty of time,” conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, a Trump backer, tweeted.
Since we were all so poised to jump on Lester Holt, let us say: He did a good job.
— Josh Greenman (@joshgreenman) September 27, 2016
Lester Holt has done a fine job as moderator. Not too intrusive, moving this along, fact-checking when necessary. #debates
— Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) September 27, 2016
— Ben White (@morningmoneyben) September 27, 2016
The Clinton campaign also appeared pleased with Holt’s performance.
“I thought Lester Holt did a good job. I think it was a very informative debate,” Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook told reporters.
Asked whether he hoped Holt would have fact-checked more, Mook said the campaign was “happy with the debate as it went.”
In contrast, the Trump campaign’s message was muddled.
Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, told Business Insider that Holt did a “fine job,” while some top Trump supporters disagreed.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani criticized the NBC anchor for characterizing the city’s former stop-and-frisk policy as unconstitutional. A federal judge in 2013 ruled the way the city practiced the tactic unconstitutional.
“I think it’s outrageous that Lester Holt interfered in a legal discussion he knows nothing about on the side of Hillary Clinton. And I didn’t see him once interfere on the side of Donald Trump,” Giuliani told reporters. “He should be ashamed of himself.”
Breitbart News, a popular far-right organization that has thrown its support behind the Republican presidential nominee, slammed Holt, publishing articles that claimed the anchor “shilled for Hillary.” The Drudge Report, another popular news source for conservatives, called Holt “the third debater.”
Trump adviser Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that the NBC anchor did a good job overall, though she complained that Holt parroted Clinton talking points.
“He had the weight of the world on his shoulders,” Huckabee Sanders said of Holt.
For weeks, observers quarreled over whether the presidential moderators should actively fact-check Trump, who has made a record number of notably false claims, and Clinton, who has made her fair share of untrue statements. Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, who will moderate the final presidential debate, has said it is not the moderator’s job to be a “truth squad.”
Brett LoGiurato and Allan Smith contributed reporting.