NBC’s Matt Lauer Takes Hits for Handling of Military Forum

By Mark Joyella 

NBC’s effort to air a significant discussion of military and veterans affairs in front of a national television audience got viewers talking–and much of the reaction was angry, and directed squarely at moderator Matt Lauer.

“This is a master class in bad interviewing,” remarked Columbia Journalism School professor Bill Grueskin.

The forum, described by NBC as the first head-to-head event of the general election, gave each candidate a mere 30 minutes to answer questions from Lauer and a group of active military and veterans (many of whom were credited with asking excellent questions). Lauer, working to keep to the rigid time constraints in the face of complicated and important topics, was widely disparaged in places like Twitter.

ProPublica’s Richard Tofel said “Matt Lauer seems more concerned about keeping answers short than keeping them informative. Why in the world cut off a substantive answer?”

As The New York Times describes the night, “Mr. Lauer found himself besieged on Wednesday evening by critics of all political stripes, who accused the anchor of unfairness, sloppiness and even sexism in his handling of the event.”

New York Magazine writer Jonathan Chait said “Lauer’s performance was not merely a failure, it was horrifying and shocking.”

One moment in particular became subject for extensive criticism–when Trump claimed “I was totally against the war in Iraq.” Lauer let the claim go unchallenged. “Seriously — everyone, and I mean everyone, knew this would happen,” wrote Paul Krugman on Twitter. And Matt Lauer didn’t have a followup planned?”