Wednesday, September 7, 2016

NBC and Matt Laurer

We don't do politics here, but our Media Review Department (MRD) does comment on TV, movies and other such media. In that vein, and with no political bent, our MRD looked at last night's "Commander and Chief" forum on NBC. In short, NBC and Matt Lauer disgraced themselves in doing a hatchet job on Hillary Clinton and giving Donald Trump, who actually did a hatchet job on himself, a pat on the back (truly, watch the end). You need not trust our excellent MRD, just put any search term you can think of into The Google and you will see that Matt Lauer was excoriated, and justifiably so. Just as bad, MSNBC had not one comment on his performance or the selection of questions from him or the audience, nor did CNN.

Anyone who says the supposed mainstream or liberal media is biased against Republicans or Conservatives or a total (and evil) nut is just plain nuts. They have feasted on Trump for their ratings and continue to feast on him as if he were some legitimate candidate. It's not Fox News that has legitimated Trump. It's the mainstream media. And the tragedy is, as the mainstream media praises itself for its supposed even-handedness, which put another way is to not call a dog-whistling racist demagogue a dog-whistling racist demagogue, he could be our president. And, if he's not, he could convince 40% of the electorate that the election was "rigged" and the result was illegitimate.

Shame on Matt Lauer. Shame on NBC. And shame on any of us who continue to patronize NBC.

PS: If Hillary had (figuratively) punched Matt Lauer in the nose, or at least had told him to stop trying to shush her (which he did several times) and let her give a complete answer to a question that deserves a complete answer (which he kept cutting her off from doing), she would have done herself a great service.

PPS: As to the mainstream media's supposed even-handedness when it comes to Trump, imagine if it were covering the Scopes trial. In short, for the media interviewers to sit silent as if Trump were making legitimate ideological points would be akin to the media interviewers sitting silent as it is argued that creationism is a legitimate ideological alternative to evolution. And for Chris Wallace (designated co-host of the third presidential debate) to say he will not challenge any assertion of either candidate because it's not his job to fact-check, one can only wonder what his job is and why he just doesn't mail in the questions. Finally, putting aside fact-checking, the failure to correct or challenge the outright lies Trump tells (e.g., "I was always against the war in Iraq") or statements that are just plain nuts (e.g., his intelligence briefers' body language told him that they were displeased with Obama or that Obama has "reduced" his top generals to "rubble") is a total dereliction of what the press is supposed to be doing.

PPPS: Here is a round up of the criticism of Matt Lauer's performance:  Link to Summary of Criticism  Here is the NYT's analysis of Matt Lauer's performance:

It was a high-stakes political moment, far from the chummier confines of the “Today” show and, for Matt Lauer, NBC’s stalwart of the morning, a chance to prove his broadcasting mettle on the presidential stage.
The consensus afterward was not kind.
Charged with overseeing a live prime-time forum with Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton — widely seen as a dry run of sorts for the coming presidential debates — 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.
Granted 30 minutes with each candidate, who appeared back-to-back at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in Manhattan, Mr. Lauer devoted about a third of his time with Mrs. Clinton to questions about her use of a private email server, then seemed to rush through subsequent queries about weighty topics like domestic terror attacks.
When an Army veteran in the audience asked Mrs. Clinton to describe her plan to defeat the Islamic State, Mr. Lauer interjected before the candidate could begin her reply.
“As briefly as you can,” he said, one of several moments where the anchor spoke over Mrs. Clinton to remind her that their time was running short.
Mr. Trump stormed onstage in his familiar motor-mouth style, often talking over Mr. Lauer and declining to directly answer many of his questions. At times, Mr. Lauer — who has conducted fewer adversarial interviews with Mr. Trump than his colleagues on NBC’s political desk — appeared flummoxed by his subject’s linguistic feints.
Drawing particular ire was the moment when Mr. Trump asserted, with his usual confidence: “I was totally against the war in Iraq.”
In fact, Mr. Trump initially said he supported the war, a point that Mrs. Clinton had raised earlier in the evening, citing an interview that Mr. Trump had given to Howard Stern. But Mr. Lauer left the assertion unchallenged, zipping along to his next question about Mr. Trump’s professed tendency to “say things that you later regret.”
Journalists and longtime political observers pounced. “How in the hell does Lauer not factcheck Trump lying about Iraq? This is embarrassingly bad,” wrote Tommy Vietor, a former aide to President Obama. Glenn Kessler, the chief fact checker at The Washington Post, posted a link to NBC’s check of Mr. Trump’s claim and wrote: “@MLauer should have been prepared to do this.”
“Lauer interrupted Clinton’s answers repeatedly to move on. Not once for Trump,” Norman Ornstein, the political commentator, wrote in a Twitter message, adding: “Tough to be a woman running for president.”
On social media, surrogates for Mrs. Clinton began mounting a sustained attack on the anchor. “Imagine if @NBCNews had done its job,” wrote Nick Merrill, her press secretary, on Twitter. Neera Tanden, a close Clinton ally, was even harsher: “I guess the good news is that Matt Lauer isn’t moderating an actual debate,” she wrote.
The criticism captured what has become a common complaint about media coverage during this election: that news organizations and interviewers treat Mrs. Clinton as a serious candidate worthy of tough questions, while Mr. Trump is sometimes handled more benignly.
Mr. Lauer did manage to extract several head-turning statements from Mr. Trump. He confronted Mr. Trump with a crass Twitter message from 2013 in which the future candidate suggested that sexual assaults in the military were a logical result of men and women serving together. “It is a correct tweet,” Mr. Trump said.
When Mr. Lauer asked if Mr. Trump actually believed he knew more about the Islamic State than American generals, the candidate replied: “The generals have been reduced to rubble.” When Mr. Lauer brought up Mr. Trump’s admiration for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, noting that Mr. Putin had invaded Ukraine and was suspected of hacking Democratic emails, Mr. Trump refused to say a negative word about him. “Do you want me to start naming some of the things that President Obama does?” Mr. Trump asked.
Still, with the formal debates set to begin on Sept. 26, Mr. Lauer’s performance seemed to preview the troubles that television moderators could face in balancing fairness with accountability. Mr. Trump, with his Houdini-like ability to squirm out of direct answers, is a particularly tough subject for interviewers, who will be forced to determine on the fly when to interrupt with a prime-time fact-check. Chris Wallace, the Fox News anchor who will handle the third presidential debate, drew criticism this week when he said, “I don’t view my role as truth-squading.”
If Mr. Lauer — who was passed over to host a debate in favor of his NBC colleague Lester Holt — was seeking a piece of the moderator experience, he got it. Warts and all.

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