After NBC’s Matt Lauer was widely criticized for failing to press Donald Trump on his professed opposition to the Iraq War during a presidential candidates forum Wednesday night, the network did indeed get around to fact-checking the GOP nominee ― it was just a bit late.
In 2002, Howard Stern asked Trump if he supported the war in Iraq, and Trump said, “Yeah, I guess so.” Lauer failed to bring up the comment during the forum.
In a story posted after the forum ended, the NBC political unit fact-checked Trump’s claim, saying that it was simply doing a “re-up” of a previous fact-check. The story notes that Trump’s claim about the war during the forum was “false.” “Trump admitted to supporting the Iraq war in 2002 before the war began though he did progressively change his decision publicly within the next year,” it says.
Thursday morning on the “Today” show, which Lauer anchors, the network replayed the exchange with Lauer and noted that Trump had supported the war, and then played the audio of Trump’s interview with Stern. MSNBC replayed the same clip several times throughout the day on Thursday.
The ease with which NBC was able to fact-check Trump’s claims only makes one wonder why Lauer couldn’t do it in real time.
Politico’s Glenn Thrush noted it was problematic that Trump wasn’t fact-checked in real time.
CNN reported on Thursday that NBC executives were disappointed with Lauer’s performance and some high-ranking people at the network agreed Lauer did not push Trump hard enough.
The criticism directed at Lauer comes amid a debate about how much of a role moderators should play in fact-checking presidential candidates. Fox News’ Chris Wallace, who will moderate the third presidential debate, said he wouldn’t call candidates out on their lies. After Wednesday’s forum, MSNBC host Chris Matthews said it was difficult for a journalist like Lauer to call out candidates when they lied because it would make it look like he had an opinion, which a journalist supposedly shouldn’t have.
But as The Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone notes, debates in which candidates aren’t fact-checked immediately are useless “he said, she said” events.
Even though Trump’s comments favoring the Iraq invasion were aired over and over on Thursday, it didn’t do anything to stop the Republican nominee from lying and saying that he was against the invasion.