Who Is Lester Holt, First Debate Moderator? Anchor To Referee Hillary Clinton Vs. Donald Trump

There has probably never been a presidential debate as highly anticipated as Monday's contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. And that puts a lot of pressure on the moderator.  Of course, there would be a lot of pressure on the moderator of any presidential debate. But in an election cycle where Trump, the GOP nominee, has publicly attacked primary debate moderators he has deemed unfair to him and with Trump and Clinton's record unfavorability priming the debate for Super Bowl-level ratings, there is more pressure than ever. The journalist tasked with handling that pressure is NBC News' Lester Holt.  Holt, 56, has been a reporter and anchor for more than 30 years. He first went on air with CBS in 1981, where he spent close to two decades before joining NBC News in 2000. Starting in 2011, Holt began hosting the popular news program "Dateline NBC," but in February 2015 he was promoted to the full time host of "NBC Nightly News," replacing disgraced anchor Brian Williams in the coveted chair. Holt had first been Williams' temporary placement while the later served a six-month suspension after admitting to lying about being involved in a fire-fight while covering the Iraq War. NBC ultimately decided to cut ties with Williams, who is now at MSNBC, and make Holt the show's face.  PrettyFamous | Graphiq Holt previously moderated a Democratic primary debate in February in Charleston, South Carolina, where Clinton sparred with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley. Holt and co-moderator Andrea Mitchell received positive reviews for their performance.  Holt is a registered Republican and lives in Manhattan with his wife, Carol Hagen, and their two sons.  The first presidential debate will be held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. It will air live at 8 p.m. EST Monday on every network and cable news network: ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, Continue Reading

Who needs Brian Williams? ‘NBC Nightly News’ ratings rise under Lester Holt

NBC may be riding out the Brian Williams storm. "The NBC Nightly News" actually rose in viewership during the first full week of Williams' six-month suspension for telling tall tales. Final Nielsen ratings for last week's evening newscasts showed NBC and substitute anchor Lester Holt averaging 9.43 million viewers a night, slightly up from the 9.35 million the show has been averaging this season. ABC's "World News Tonight" averaged 9.03 million viewers a night last week, also up from its year-to-date average and slightly closer to NBC's total viewership. "The CBS Evening News" averaged 7.63 million. Equally encouraging for NBC, the network maintained its slim lead over ABC among viewers 25 to 54, who are the most lucrative because they matter most to advertisers. NBC averaged 2.29 million viewers in that demographic last week, ahead of ABC's 2.24 million. Williams is sitting out six months after his tall tale about flying in a helicopter that was hit by an RPG in Iraq. Holt anchors in his absence. Holt, an NBC veteran, has substituted for Williams in the past. His style is straightforward and nothing in his first days has injected him personally into the news. NBC introduces the show as "The NBC Nightly News. … Reporting tonight, Lester Holt." Continue Reading

Benghazi Survivor: No Debate Q’s on Attack Shows Lester Holt’s Bias

Mark “Oz” Geist, a member of the Annex Security Team on the night of the 2012 Benghazi terror attack, joined Sean Hannity to discuss the candidates’ performance at Monday night’s presidential debate.Geist, a Marine veteran who was in Libya the night four Americans were killed by insurgents, said the fact that the debate moderator, Lester Holt, did not ask a question about Clinton’s handling of the attack and its aftermath portrayed the NBC News anchor’s alleged bias.It just goes to show the bias that was there with the moderator--with Lester," Geist said, “They never followed up on any question."“They [therefore] missed an opportunity to show America the type of leader [Hillary Clinton would] be,” he added.Former Defense Intelligence Agency Director Gen. Michael Flynn, a Trump supporter who, like Geist, was in attendance in Nassau County, N.Y. on Monday, said the lengthy exchange on the Barack Obama “birther issue” “did not result in four dead Americans [or] a failed nation-state in Libya.”“We have to look and see if this is the type of [leader] we want…that ended up putting people in harms way for political gain,” Geist said of Clinton.Clinton’s leadership as secretary of state “allowed the military to atrophy,” Flynn said.What do you think? Let us know in the comments. Gutfeld: Trump Missed Repeated ‘Golden Opportunity’ to Stump Hillary Mark Cuban: Trump ‘Never Took Control’, Always ‘Counter-Punching’ Professor Predicting Trump Win, But Could Debate Change That? Continue Reading

Jenna Wolfe: My child’s father isn’t Matt Lauer or Lester Holt

Jenna Wolfe may adore her 'Today' family, but she's not close enough to make a talk show host colleague the father of her child. The 'Today' weekend anchor, 39, made a splash on Wednesday when she announced that she was pregnant and in a relationship with fellow journalist Stephanie Gosk. But she and Gosk have decided to keep the baby's father's identity a secret. "The rumor is that it's Lester Holt," Wolfe laughed in an interview with E! News' Alicia Quarles. Quarles joked that she had heard that Matt Lauer might be the dad. But Wolfe insisted that she and Gosk are keeping the identity "under wraps." Wolfe was more open about the decision-making process behind whether Gosk or Wolfe would carry their child. "We rock-paper-scissored it. I won 34-31, so I'm carrying the baby," Wolfe explained. "We are almost three years into our relationship and it felt like the right time," Wolfe continued. "It was more a product of where we were in our relationship." The talk show co-host also spoke about the decision to come out as a couple with Gosk. "I think if you're not who you are, you're going to have a hard time explaining to your kid why it's OK to wake up every day and walk out into the world proud of who they are," she noted. "We have gotten nothing but positive feedback." Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Rieder: A tough night for Lester Holt

Lester Holt whiffed.In an extremely high-profile and widely anticipated appearance as the moderator of the first debate of the presidential campaign featuring Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the NBC Nightly News anchor was frequently bulldozed by The Donald Monday night.Time after time, Holt let Trump go on and on, even when the GOP candidate interrupted Clinton, which he did frequently. When the moderator tried to intervene,  Trump simply kept talking.Twitter was typically merciless, subjecting Holt to a devastating barrage of ridicule throughout the debate. "I wonder what the debate would have been like if Lester Holt had shown up," went one tweet. There was rampant speculation that Holt had fallen asleep, or had understandably left for a cocktail."This is Secretary Clinton's two minutes," Holt said early on in an effort to stop the Trump filibuster. Trump kept talking. "This is Secretary Clinton's two minutes," Holt repeated a while later. Finally Trump stopped."Wait a minute, Lester," Trump told the moderator at one point.This is how bad it got: New Yorker humorist Andy Borowitz posted a piece titled, "CNN launches manhunt after Lester Holt vanishes from debate."In fairness, keeping the proceedings under control was not an easy task. Trump likes to play by his own rules, and the debate proved no exception. He is a strong-willed and forceful presence. But Holt is a topflight news professional, and keeping things on track was his job for the evening. At times it seemed as if Trump had gotten his wish of a debate without a moderator.There's an argument to be made that the moderator should just stay out of the way and let the combatants have at it. Those who hold that view largely got what they wanted. And while that approach hardly helps the cause of civic discourse, it certainly provides an unvarnished view of the candidates.Actually, when he could get a word in, Holt had some good moments. There had been much talk during the run-up Continue Reading

For Lester Holt, it’s debate glory — or torture on Twitter

Lester Holt’s gig at Hofstra University Monday evening won't be his first rodeo as a presidential debate moderator.When the NBC Nightly News anchor co-hosted a Democratic primary debate in January with NBC colleague Andrea Mitchell, he mostly stuck to the conventional script. He read pre-written questions from postcards. He interrupted candidates when they went on too long. With the candidates mostly agreeing on issues, it was largely a softball affair.The stakes are about to get a lot higher for the 57-year old broadcaster Monday night as he moderates the general election season’s first debate between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and her Republican rival, Donald Trump.“This is the biggest stage he’s been on his entire life,” says Andrew Tyndall, the media analyst who specializes in network news and publishes The Tyndall Report. “This is a glorious opportunity for him."In a presidential race singularly arresting and historic, not to say bitterly contentious, the first female nominee of a major party, who prefers to speak in long-winded, careful paragraphs, squares off against a blunt reality-TV star with a penchant for personal insults.And as if the stakes needed to be raised, there is an added complication: After Matt Lauer's widely ridiculed performance interviewing the contenders for NBC's Commander-in-Chief Forum earlier this month, there is growing pressure on debate moderators to act as fact-checkers and challenge candidates on their false assertions.Holt’s job will be made somewhat easier by the format, in which the candidates largely will hold each other accountable for their opponents’ answers. The candidates will be asked to provide two-minute answers to questions posed by Holt and will be given additional time to respond to each other.Still, raw personal enmity will likely emerge. Evasive answers are inevitable. Untruths and constitutionally questionable proposals are widely Continue Reading

NBC’s Lester Holt channels childhood experiences in reports from Afghanistan honoring troops abroad

NBC news anchor Lester Holt remembers when he was a child, he'd be glued to the TV, praying to see his father. He was 6 or 7 at the time, and his father, Lester Holt Sr., was a sergeant in the Air Force stationed in Da Nang, Vietnam. Young Lester was back in California, with his mother and three siblings, watching a Bob Hope special filmed in Vietnam, and hoping his dad was in the audience. "We never saw him," Holt told the Daily News from Afghanistan. "It was just the thought that he might be there." Knowing what military families go through, and having a sense that people in general weren't talking about the soldiers in Afghanistan, Holt pitched his bosses on a trip to the battle zone. He's been there since Friday, anchoring weekend telecasts and will anchor "Today" Thursday. "This story has been getting bigger as this year has gone on," Holt says. "I felt I was thinking about it more, and certainly nobody was talking about it as much as they should be." Not that it wasn't being reported, he says. He just got the sense regular folks weren't paying enough attention to what the men and women in the armed forces were doing over there. "It's a good time to go," says Holt. "There are a lot of Americans over there doing incredibly dangerous work." One, he recalled, told him about being in a helicopter hit by gunfire. Miraculously, the guy walked away with just five stitches and went back to work. "The more I talk to guys like that, the more I feel smaller and smaller," Holt says. "I think, 'What have I done lately? What sacrifices have I made?'" While there, he's done a story about a regular Afghanistani family, which has resonated with viewers. He's gone aloft with rescue crews to pick up the wounded, and he's been on the battlefield. The trip also means he'll be away from his wife and grown sons for the holiday. His wife was supportive of the trip, he says. "She gets it," he says. "She gets the passion I have for this." When Holt was a Continue Reading

NBC anchor Lester Holt breaks silence on Brian Williams

Even Lester Holt didn't know what was going on while the Brian Williams scandal nearly burned down NBC News. The NBC brass kept Holt uniformed during the nearly five months he filled in for the disgraced anchor. Finally, last week, the 55-year-old network news journeyman became NBC’s new news star as he was officially anointed the anchor of the flagship program, “Nightly News.” BRIAN WILLIAMS TO RETURN AS PART OF MSNBC REVAMP “The fact of the matter is that I wasn’t being told anything about (Williams),” Holt told the Daily News Monday, breaking his silence about the scandal. “For lack of a better term, there was a ‘firewall’ between me and all that. I accepted that my role was to fill in for six months, and there were never any discussions (with NBC executives) about where or what this all might lead to — so I tried to keep my head down.” Holt said his biggest source for news about the Williams scandal were reports from sources outside of NBC News. “There were times that I tried not to read anything that was written about this whole situation, so of course I read everything. At some point I didn't know what to believe, but ultimately it kept coming back to keeping my head focused on the broadcast,” he says. Ultimately, the embattled Williams lost his prestigious perch behind the anchor desk after an internal investigation revealed that he had spent years exaggerating his role in world events on talk shows, speaking engagements and at parties. The two newsmen had traded some emails during Williams’ suspension, but they spoke last Thursday for the first time since the scandal. BRIAN WILLIAMS STRIKES DEAL TO REMAIN AT NBC Holt describes the conversation as “personal,” so he declined to give the details, but he did reveal that he and Williams are on solid ground as colleagues. “It was a conversation Continue Reading

Lester Holt officially gets the NBC ‘Nightly News’ anchor chair, replacing Brian Williams in shakeup

You can take the word “interim” off of Lester Holt’s name. The veteran reporter was officially named the “permanent anchor” of NBC Nightly News, ending speculation about who would take over from disgraced newsman Brian Williams. DISGRACED ANCHOR BRIAN WILLIAMS FESSES UP, WILL RETURN TO AIR IN MSNBC REVAMP--'I SAID THINGS THAT WEREN'T TRUE' "Lester has done outstanding work for NBC News over the last 10 years, and he's performed remarkably well over the last few months under very tough circumstances," NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack said in a statement, referring to Williams’ six month suspension for lying. BRIAN WILLIAMS WILL APPEAR ON THE 'TODAY' SHOW WITH MATT LAUER ON FRIDAY "He's an exceptional anchor who goes straight to the heart of every story and is always able to find its most direct connection to the everyday lives of our audience. In many ways, television news stands at a crossroads, and Lester is the perfect person to meet the moment." The promotion makes Holt the first black journalist to become the lone anchor of a major network evening news program. Pioneering broadcaster Max Robinson anchored ABC’s “World News Tonight” in the late-1970s, but he shared those duties with Peter Jennings and Frank Reynolds. NEW YORKERS SAY THEY CAN TRUST BRIAN WILLIAMS AGAIN Williams, meanwhile, will return from network purgatory and will join MSNBC as part of Lack’s efforts to beef up breaking news coverage on the struggling cable station. He will also appear on NBC News live reports, the statement said, but added “when Holt is not available.” Williams begins that role in August. "Brian now has the chance to earn back everyone's trust,” Lack said in a statement. “His excellent work over twenty-two years at NBC News has earned him that opportunity.” BRIAN Continue Reading

Lester Holt earned his promotion for solid reporting — and staying out of the headlines

Lester is more. The only patch of clear, clean high ground for NBC amid the deepening Brian Williams quicksand has been the man who will now replace him as anchor of "The Nightly News," Lester Holt. Holt stepped into the tarnished anchor chair in February and gave the network just what it desperately needed: solid professionalism on the air and zero headlines off it. That may seem like an odd prescription for success in this personality-driven age, but you know what? It worked. When the network officially gave the job to Holt — with a nice raise, we hope — no one anywhere can say he hasn't earned or doesn't deserve it. Holt was a pro long before Williams started spinning self-glorifying fairy tales. If there was any complaint about Holt, it's that he didn't have the flash or elan that networks sometimes want in their most visible on-air hosts. But over four months in the anchor seat, Holt has eased such concerns, showing enough of a human touch to reassure viewers there's a person behind those crisply delivered news stories. It's a nice bonus, and in a curious way perhaps a mark of progress, that there's been only minimal attention to the fact he will be the first black solo anchor of a network nightly newscast. He's getting the job because he's shown he can do the job. Everything hasn't gone perfectly during Holt's interim tenure. Having him anchor the newscast from a helicopter after May's Amtrak derailment felt like a silly gimmick that added nothing to coverage of the story. But in general he's done what network news anchors have tried to do for the last 60 years: identify the day's most important stories and report what we know about them. He’s been doing that since he joined the network family in 2000 — and immediately made a splash with his reporting on the contested 2000 presidential election when he was a nightly fixture on MSNBC. "Anyone who's watched MSNBC in the past week will no doubt have noticed Continue Reading