Hillary Clinton is now fund-raising off Matt Lauer’s controversial performance as moderator of Wednesday night’s “Commander-in-Chief Forum.”
In an email to supporters Thursday, the Clinton campaign faulted the “Today” show co-host for failing to fact-check Donald Trump’s discredited claim that he opposed the Iraq War from the beginning. The email then chastised “many outlets in the press” for lacking “the wherewithal” to call Trump out.
“At this point, we should understand that we just can’t sit around and wait for fact checkers in the media to keep Trump honest,” read the email, which prompted readers to donate to the Clinton campaign. “We have to step up and do it ourselves. No one will do it for us. And the outcome of the election could hang in the balance.”
Lauer has been raked over the coals since the forum, which one NBC executive has referred to as a “disaster.”
Critics said he spent too much time on Clinton’s emails, was uneven in his treatment of the two candidates, and neglected to press Trump on inaccurate and controversial claims.
“In an event aboard the decommissioned aircraft carrier Intrepid, the ‘Today’ host was lost at sea,” New York Times television critic James Poniewozik wrote. “Seemingly unprepared on military and foreign policy specifics, he performed like a soldier sent on a mission without ammunition, beginning with a disorganized offensive, ending in a humiliating retreat.”
Early in his interview with Trump, Lauer failed to challenge Trump when Trump said he’d opposed the invasion of Iraq as early as 2002, a claim that has been repeatedly debunked.
As evidence for his claim, Trump cited a 2004 Esquire article in which he questioned the Bush administration’s handling of the war. On Thursday, Esquire appended an editor’s note to the piece noting that the Iraq War began in March 2003, more than a year before the article ran, “thus nullifying Trump’s timeline.”
“Even if Lauer had been simply listening to [Trump’s] response and had the the memory of an earthworm,” NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik said Thursday, “he would’ve heard Trump say, look, you could go back to an article in 2004 in Esquire where I was against it. That would have been a year after the invasion of Iraq.”