By James Hibberd
Updated September 08, 2016 at 09:47 PM EDT
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Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Matt Lauer may be getting slammed for putting Hillary Clinton on trial for email abuse while offering a warm comfort blanket to Donald Trump (or so the moderator’s critics have portrayed), but ratings for Wednesday night’s Commander-in-Chief Forum were certainly strong.

Almost 15 million watched the NBC News presentation, delivering more viewers than any of the broadcast network coverage of the primary debates this election cycle.

The event was billed as the first joint event of the general election featuring both presidential nominees, and is considered a warm-up round to the actual live debates, the first of which gets underway Sept. 26. The ratings for the first debate (which will be telecast across all the major broadcast networks and cable news networks) are certain to be rather high, and perhaps even record setting.

In the meantime, the Commander-in-Chief Forum was roundly blasted for having the morning show veteran moderate the event instead of a political journalist, with one NBC insider telling CNN the event was a “disaster.” NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt will moderate the one-on-one debate later this month. A new poll suggests most Americans (53 percent) expect Clinton to win the debates, which is sometimes considered a disadvantage — the person expected to win typically has to outperform to beat expectations.

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