We’ve been listening to TV pundits and rousing speeches and celebrity endorsements for over a year now, but it’s finally time to let the 2016 presidential candidates speak for themselves. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump will face off in a series of debates starting next week, and the first one, which will take place Monday night, will be moderated by Lester Holt.
Following Matt Lauer’s widely criticized performance as moderator of NBC News’ Commander-in-Chief Forum earlier this month — not to mention the controversy over Trump’s comments about Megyn Kelly after she moderated a Republican primary debate last summer — everyone’s paying closer attention than ever to the person running the show. So who’s the guy who will be grilling Clinton and Trump for their first official debate? We’ve got answers to all of your burning questions about Lester Holt below.
Who is Lester Holt?
Lester Holt is a journalist with a decades-long career, first at CBS, and now, since 2000, at NBC. He has been the weekday anchor of NBC Nightly News since 2015 and has been the anchor on Dateline NBC since 2011.
Is he a Democrat or a Republican?
Trick question! (Not really.) You might have seen that Trump said on Fox News, “Lester is a Democrat. It’s a phony system. [The debate moderators] are all Democrats. It’s a very unfair system.” That is incorrect. Holt is, in fact, a registered Republican in the state of New York.
Didn’t he just replace someone?
Yes — over a year ago. In February of 2015, after Brian Williams recanted and apologized for exaggerating a story about his experience covering the Iraq War, the NBC Nightly News anchor was suspended for six months and Dateline anchor Holt was brought in as Williams’ interim replacement. In June of last year, however, the network moved Williams over to MSNBC and made Holt the official permanent anchor on Nightly News.
Has he ever moderated a presidential debate before?
Holt — who, we have established, is a registered Republican — moderated one of the Democratic debates during this year’s primary race, back in January, to mostly positive reviews. Monday night will be his first turn moderating a general election debate.
How are moderators even chosen in the first place?
Presidential debate moderators are selected by the Commission on Presidential Debates, a private, nonpartisan organization. The CPD website lists three criteria taken into account when picking debate moderators: “a) familiarity with the candidates and the major issues of the presidential campaign; b) extensive experience in live television broadcast news; and c) an understanding that the debate should focus maximum time and attention on the candidates and their views.” The moderators themselves choose the debate topics and questions.
What will Holt ask the nominees about?
The debate will take the form of six 15-minute segments; two debate segments will be dedicated to each of three preselected topics. For Monday night’s debate, Holt has chosen America’s Direction, Achieving Prosperity, and Securing America as the topics up for discussion.
How tall is he?
We thought we ought to let you know Lester Holt’s height, because this is the No. 1 most-searched piece of information about the journalist, who will be at the helm of the first of a highly anticipated series of crucial political debates that could have the power to influence the outcome of one of the most historically significant American presidential elections in recent history. The point is: He’s 6’2”.