Moderating a televised presidential event is one hell of an undertaking. Such an event means a lot of pressure on the host to guide the conversations in the right way and ask the candidates what voters need to make a decision in November. And on Wednesday night, NBC Today host Matt Lauer questioned Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, but — spoiler — went pretty easy on them. Critics argued that Lauer spent too much of his half-hour with Clinton going over her emails once again, and didn't offer up enough follow-up questions; rather, it seemed, going down a list of what he needed to get through in the time allotted. Then, he threw softball questions to Trump — like what prepared him to be president. This wasn't lost on viewers.
Even CNN Money reported that NBC executives considered the forum as disaster. Considering how close the 2016 election is, it's disappointing that tougher questions were not asked and the candidates were not pressed as much as they could have been on their policies. Viewers didn't miss an opportunity to let their opinions be heard about how they thought Lauer could have done better. Many viewers brought up the fact that Lauer is a host of Today, which focuses more on celebrity interviews and entertainment than political discourse. Out of the anger and frustration of a weak presidential forum, the #LauertheBar hashtag (which is a very clever pun, if I do say so myself) was born for Twitter users to complain about the failings of the host.
Some people went after Lauer for his soft questioning.
The Trump parody account even got in on the action with this joke.
While others proclaimed that Lauer is not a real journalist, referring to him as an entertainer instead.
Others mocked Lauer for his playful attitude at his job and NBC's rationale for placing him in such an important position at a forum.
One even claims to have helped remove the "journalist" title be removed from Lauer's Wikipedia page (it's back now, FYI).
Another user invoked Trump's The Apprentice catchphrase.
And the press in general, which includes Lauer, was dragged into the conversation with a call for better interrogation of presidential candidates, and Trump in particular.
It's easy to laugh about the ridiculousness of this situation, but it's important to remember that as voters we need to not only hold the candidates accountable, but also those involved in covering the election. As the Fourth Estate, journalism is a crucial watchdog of the government, and that begins even before a president steps into office. With debates, town halls, and forums, the American people get the opportunity to see how candidates perform under pressure when being asked difficult questions about their policies and actions that may be uncomfortable and assess how they will act as leaders. Let's hope that in the next televised election event, the moderator brings a little more power.