October 3, 2020 | News | No Comments
Putting aside the shortcomings of both major candidates, for many critical observers the biggest loser during Wednesday night’s presidential “Commander-in-Chief” forum on NBC News was the platform itself.
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Moderated by NBC’s host of The Today Show Matt Lauer, the town hall-style event was staged inside the belly of the U.S.S. Intrepid, a retired World War II aircraft carrier that now serves as a military museum in New York City, and was promoted by the news outlet as a chance to extract specific positions from both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on veterans affairs and foreign policy.
But instead of informing viewers on these key subject matters or holding the candidates to account for past actions or statements, a widespread reaction among progressive viewers and critical journalists from across the political spectrum was that Lauer failed to ask the necessary tough questions or followups, with many suggesting the forum was a lesson in how not to inform voters or put a check on those seeking high office.
According to Michael Calderone, senior media reporter for the Huffington Post, the forum “should have gone down as the first time the two 2016 presidential candidate shared a stage,” but instead “will be remembered largely for the shortcomings of the man who was tasked with moderating.”
Writing for The Intercept, staff journalists Zaid Jilani and Alex Emmons described the NBC production and Lauer’s performance as a “master class on how not to hold candidates accountable” before a national audience.
“From the questions chosen to the format,” Jilani and Emmons said that despite some good questions from veterans in the audience the event—which ran only one hour during prime time—was a total failure:
Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, called the forum “an absolute disgrace” and just more proof that the entire presidential debate system needs an overhaul. “Matt Lauer treated this forum less as a chance to educate voters about the real differences in temperament and policy between the candidates and more as a chance to do clickbait trolling,” Green said. “Instead of asking about big ideas, he asked small-bore questions that voters aren’t asking at their dinner tables.”
Columnist Jonathan Chait, meanwhile, dubbed Lauer’s interview approach as “pathetic” and lamented the impact such performances have on the voting public and, ultimately, the election.
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