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Debate moderators: timekeepers or fact checkers?




Matt Lauer looks on during the NBC News Commander-in-Chief Forum. He has been widely criticized for his performance as moderator.
Matt Lauer looks on during the NBC News Commander-in-Chief Forum. He has been widely criticized for his performance as moderator.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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Disorganized, uninformed, pandering, #Laueringthebar?

Probably not the critiques - or hashtag - NBC’s Matt Lauer was expecting after moderating Wednesday night’s Commander-in-Chief forum with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The “Today Show” host’s performance with the presidential candidates wasn’t received particularly well - which is putting it mildly considering one NBC executive called it a “disaster.”

Critics say Lauer frequently interrupted Clinton, squandered too many minutes on the email scandal and didn’t give her enough time to discuss foreign policy or veterans issues. When it was Trump’s turn, Lauer has been raked over the coals for treating the New York billionaire with kid gloves and not challenging the Republican nominee when he lied about opposing the Iraq war in 2002.

Those who have come to Lauer’s defense argue the moderator would’ve come across as biased if he’d called out Trump’s inconsistencies in real time. Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace, moderator for the final upcoming presidential debate, says it should be up to the candidates to call out their opponent’s false claims. In an interview last week Wallace said, “I do not believe that it’s my job to be a truth squad.”

What do you expect from the event moderators during a presidential election? Are they supposed to play the conversational timekeeper, fact-checking journalist or something else entirely?

Guest:

Aaron Kall, Director of Debate at the University of Michigan and author of the new book “Debating the Donald”.