NBC needed a fair, impartial moderator for a veterans forum featuring Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, so they settled on — a journalist with ties to the Clinton Foundation.
That sounds about right.
The event, the Commander-in-Chief Forum, is scheduled for the evening of Sept. 7 and will feature back-to-back appearances by Clinton and Trump in front of an audience of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. NBC and MSNBC, which will host the event, announced that “The Today Show” host Matt Lauer will moderate.
“I don’t think he’s impartial.”
Lauer is one of 14 media stars listed as “past notable members” of the Clinton Global Initiative, an arm of the foundation.
The Clinton Foundation told the online news site Mediaite last year that journalists who moderate panels and participate in Clinton Global Initiative events did not have to meet the normal $20,000 membership fee — and in fact had been reclassified as “guests” rather than members in 2012.
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It is unclear how many of the other journalists, including Lauer, contributed money to the foundation or its affiliates. “This Week” host George Stephanopoulos apologized last year for failing to disclose about $50,000 in Clinton Foundation donations during the previous two years.
Critics said Lauer has a history of bias against Trump.
“I don’t think he’s impartial,” said Mike Ciandella, a research analyst at the Media Research Center.
In an interview with Chelsea Clinton earlier this year, Lauer suggested it was unfair for Trump to raise issues from her parents’ past.
“I mean, it’s clear, Chelsea, that Donald Trump is willing to bring up some of the darkest moments of your family’s past as an issue,” he said. “Would you sit down with Ivanka [Trump] and say that shouldn’t fit into the rules of engagement?”
During his Olympics coverage this summer, Lauer took a veiled swipe at Trump’s stance against Syrian refugees relocating to the United States when he reported on a team made up of refugees.
“The historic first by the IOC [International Olympic Committee] comes at a critical time when backlash against refugees has sparked fears in Europe, and here in the United States,” he said.
During the week of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Lauer referenced violence in the country in the preceding weeks and then told Trump, “You add to that the passion that comes with political debate and there are people who are truly afraid that things could boil over here in Cleveland.”
When Lauer interviewed Trump in October, Lauer quoted from “The Art of the Deal,” in which Trump wrote that he plays to people’s fantasies. “Would it be fair to say that that describes your campaign to date?”
Ciandella said Lauer is far from the only biased member of the media. Many, like Stephanopoulos, have been part of a “revolving door” between politics and the media.
“You have all these people who just go back and forth between Democratic politicians and the media,” he said.