NBC News Chief: Matt Lauer "Did a Tremendous Job" Moderating Candidate Forum

Matt Lauer with Trump at the Commander-in-Chief Forum -Publicity - H 2016
Heidi Gutman/NBC

Despite Matt Lauer's panned performance as moderator of the Commander-in-Chief Forum on Sept. 7, NBC News chairman Andrew Lack praised the anchor in an email sent to staff on Friday afternoon. He noted that Lauer's questioning of Donald Trump, which drew fire from Clinton surrogates as well as many in the media for being soft, had made news.  

"Every major paper and news broadcast around the world has led with headlines about Putin, Iraq, ISIS, and intelligence briefings," wrote Lack. 

And it is true that Lauer's questions elicited some headline-grabbing statements from Trump. But he was also forcefully criticized for not asking Trump about his criticism of the family of slain Army soldier Humayun Khan, a Muslim who died fighting in Iraq, Trump's deferments during Vietnam and failing to challenge the candidate on his widely debunked assertion that he was against the War in Iraq from the beginning. 

It is the first response from the network since social media erupted in a cascade of brickbats popularizing the hashtag #LaueringTheBar. And it comes as Lauer's colleague Lester Holt is preparing to moderate the first presidential debate on Sept. 26.

The full note: 

Dear Colleagues,

Before this week comes to an end, I wanted to take just a moment to share how proud I am of all the work our teams produced together this week. After a summer of success at the Conventions and the Olympics, we broke more new ground Wednesday night with the first ever Commander-in-Chief Forum.

Against all odds we were able to bring the two presidential nominees together for the first time and presented an important examination of what each would bring to the role of Commander-in-Chief. Because of our event, national security has dominated the news cycle for days. Every major paper and news broadcast around the world has led with headlines about Putin, Iraq, ISIS, and intelligence briefings. Matt did a tremendous job – driving one of the most serious discussions to date on these topics. Nearly 15 million people watched the event, and over 26 million tuned in at some point during the hour.

My deepest thanks to everyone who helped pull off this remarkable achievement.

Have a wonderful weekend!

With much respect and affection,