Politics

Trump Gives Face Time to Most Hostile Debate Moderator of 2016

NBC anchor who gave Clinton a pass, accused president of racism gets exclusive interview

A NBC News anchor who was seen as soft on Hillary Clinton and tough on Donald Trump in the first 2016 presidential debate will now get a rare one-on-one interview with President Trump.

Numerous media outlets reported on Tuesday morning that NBC News’ Lester Holt will get the on-camera sit-down with Trump this week.

“[Clinton] also had some help from Lester Holt. I don’t think there’s any question about it.”

The Hill reported that the interview will air both on Thursday’s broadcast of “NBC Nightly News” and on Friday morning’s “Today Show.” Holt’s interview comes at a time that conservative outlets are complaining about access to Trump, his Cabinet, and his staff.

“Given how one-sided the major media [have] been with Trump, it’s almost surprising he’s willing to engage them,” said Dan Gainor, vice president of business and culture for the Media Research Center. “Our recent study showed that 89 percent of evening news coverage was negative about President Trump.”

Gainor suggested Trump is still trying to play nice with media elite who are fundamentally committed to undermining his presidency.

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“Perhaps he’s trying to win a few friends in the press, but that’s hardly likely,” he said, “the news media are doing everything they can to sabotage his presidency.”

Holt was the subject of intense conservative ire for roasting Trump at the first on-stage contest with Clinton, in what many commentators regarded as the most biased performance from any of the cycle’s presidential-debate moderators.

“I guess we know who [Holt’s] voting for,” said Tucker Carlson, a Fox News anchor and co-founder of The Daily Caller, in an email to LifeZette following the debate on Sept. 26.

During the debate, Holt avoided asking Clinton about major scandals and issues including the Clinton Foundation; her paid speeches before Wall Street crowds; questions about her handling of the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and more.

But Trump got roasted by Holt. Holt suggested Trump was guilty of racism for doubting the authenticity of former President Barack Obama’s birth certificate. Holt also tried to fact-check Trump’s claim that he did not support going to war with Iraq in 2003.

“NBC’s @LesterHoltNBC asked 3 questions on birtherism and nothing on the Clinton Foundation,” tweeted Richard Grenell, former U.N. spokesman for President George W. Bush, after the debate.

Yet Clinton actually voted for the war in 2003, then tracked back over the years to harshly criticize President George W. Bush on his war performance. Holt also spun the issue of the economy under Obama. Holt painted a rosy picture on jobs and income growth, while admitting Clinton’s favorite economic issues — such as income inequality — were indeed still an issue after almost eight years of Obama.

“[Clinton] also had some help from Lester Holt,” said Howie Kurtz, the Fox News media critic, after the debate. “I don’t think there’s any question about it.”

NBC News is not the first big liberal outlet to get time with Trump. Recently, the White House has been giving more one-on-one exclusive interviews, but conservative media are generally getting the short shrift.

Conservative media outlets have complained they have gotten some access, but not the big scoops and exclusive interviews that fuel reader interest. Trump gave his first interview as president to ABC News.

Around the time of Trump’s 100th day in office, April 29, the president sat down for exclusive interviews with CBS News, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, the Washington Examiner, Reuters, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and The Associated Press. Only two of those eight outlets are considered right-leaning.

The lack of one-on-one interviews, among other scoops, has rankled conservative media outlets — even as press secretary Sean Spicer gives regular opportunity to conservative outlets to ask questions at daily White House briefings. But figures in right-leaning media want more and are puzzled by the president’s catering to a hostile and predominantly liberal mainstream media.

“They’ve brought conservative media in to a small extent, but it’s mostly been window dressing,” said Lee Stranahan, a former investigative reporter for Breitbart, speaking to The Hill on April 26.

Spicer did not immediately return a request for comment.

meet the author

Political reporter, LifeZette. Indiana University journalism grad. Boston U. business grad. Former Indiana, Alabama statehouse reporter, Daytona Beach editorial writer.

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