Matt Lauer Is The Subject Of A Strange Search Term

Matt Lauer is facing near-universal criticism for his performance as moderator of Thursday's presidential candidates' forum. Many people, viewers and journalists alike, felt that Lauer's interview with Hillary Clinton was far more combative than his interview with Donald Trump, and his treatment of the two candidates was perceived as being so egregiously uneven that a great deal of people began wondering if Lauer was a secret Trump supporter. This isn't just speculation: "Is Matt Lauer a Trump supporter" was the most common Google search phrase in the day after the forum, according to Google.

There were many, many problems with Lauer's interviews with the two candidates, and these problems are well-documented. When Trump claimed incorrectly to have opposed the war in Iraq, for example, Lauer didn't challenge him and asked no follow-ups. You might think that'd be an important claim to challenge, given that this was an event about foreign military policy, and the Iraq war is one of the most significant American foreign policy decisions of the last half century. At a different point, Trump stated that he had yet to come up with a plan to defeat ISIS, then said moments later that he already had a plan. Lauer, who was specifically asking about Trump's anti-ISIS plan, didn't seem to notice, and moved on.

Meanwhile, at a forum meant to focus on military issues, Lauer asked Clinton no less than six questions about her emails, and they were six of the first seven questions. After spending a good chunk of time on this, he repeatedly interrupted Clinton on the grounds that they were short on time, urging her to be brief with her answers.

Viewers weren't the only ones who took issue with the forum. An anonymous NBC executive told CNN that it was a "disaster," while one veteran who attended the event said that "we [veterans] left disappointed." By Thursday, #LaueringTheBar became a trending hashtag on Twitter, and Clinton had sent out a fundraising email simply titled "Matt Lauer."

Despite all of this, this criticism could ultimately have an upside. The journalists who are set to moderate the actual presidential debates — Lester Hold, Martha Raddatz, Anderson Cooper, and Chris Wallace — have now seen the intense vilification a moderator faces if they fail to give the impression of impartiality while interviewing the candidates. This may compel them to take extra steps to avoid his fate when crafting their own questions for the one-on-one debates. Because no journalist, regardless of their own political affiliations, likes to be publicly ridiculed.