A close analysis of the transcript of the first presidential debate on Monday night shows that moderator Lester Holt of NBC News asked 15 questions exclusively of Republican nominee Donald Trump, and only 2 questions exclusively of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
The analysis, posted on social media and drawing intense attention on Reddit, walks through the entire 90-minute exchange and notes Holt asked six questions of both candidates, in addition to Trump’s 15 and Clinton’s two.
Holt, a newcomer to presidential debate moderation, faced intense pressure from the Clinton campaign and the mainstream media to be tough on Trump. Some explicitly called for Holt to “fact-check” Trump — the implication being that Trump is more ignorant or dishonest — and implied that he would face the same fate as NBC’s Matt Lauer and Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon, both of whom were slammed by liberal media critics for the crime of treating both candidates fairly.
Moreover, most of Holt’s questions prompts were overly friendly to Clinton’s point of view, while hostile to Trump. In one of the last exchanges of the debate, for example, Holt strongly implied Trump was a sexist when asking about a past criticism he had made about Clinton lacking a “presidential look.” He also introduced the opening topic of the debate by praising Obama’s economic performance, ignoring the fact that growth never reached 3% under Obama and labor force participation has fallen.