Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Republican Donald Trump was kept on the defensive at the first presidential debate, in several instances having to debate the highly anticipated event's moderator as well as his Democratic opponent.
Trump was challenged on his answers Monday night at Hofstra University in New York at least six times by NBC's Lester Holt, according to the Washington Examiner's count. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile was no follow-up questions for the 90-minute debate.
The debate was separated into three segments: "Achieving Prosperity," "America's Direction" and "Securing America."
In the first segment, Trump was asked about his reluctance to release his tax returns, which he has said he is unwilling to make public until a federal audit on them has been completed, an excuse he reiterated during the debate.
But Holt jumped in to ask him if he believed the public interest "outweighed" any concerns over an audit. Trump said he would be willing to go ahead and release the returns if Clinton would make available more than 30,000 emails she deleted from her tenure as secretary of the State Department, a controversy that has damaged her standing in trustworthiness with voters.
In the next segment, both candidates were asked how they would help heal racial divisions in the country. In his answer, Trump proposed making New York's controversial "stop and frisk" policy more widespread.
Holt told Trump that the law was deemed unconstitutional by a federal court in 2013, to which Trump asserted that it was a ruling that could have been won on appeal.
Holt followed up again: "The argument is that it's a form of racial profiling."
In the same segment, dubbed "America's Direction," Holt asked Trump to account for his recent switch on President Obama's birthplace, which the GOP nominee has long suggested may not be in the U.S.
He asked Trump, "What took you so long" to acknowledge Obama was born in the country. After Trump said he was successful in getting the president to make public his birth certificate, Holt pressed him on why he continued to raise doubts about it even up until early this year.
And then Holt asked Trump what he would say to black Americans offended by the controversy.
At another point in the debate, Holt also challenged Trump on his claim that he has always been agains the war in Iraq. Trump maintained that he had but Holt shot back, "The record shows otherwise."
In the entirety of the debate, the closest follow-up question Clinton was asked at the debate dealt with racial issues. She was asked the same question as Trump on how to heal racial divisions and then, after her answer, was asked how to improve whether she believed police "are implicitly biased against black people," a reference to a recent comment she made about "implicit bias" among police.
Leading up to the debate, there was a big push by the Clinton campaign and some media critics to get Holt to act as a live fact-checker at the debate, taking on a more aggressive and active role as a moderator, especially for Trump.
Trump attempted to fact-check Clinton a few times during the debate, such as on her claim that she was not a proponent of the Trans-Pacific Partnership international trade deal, which previously referred to as the "gold standard" for international trade. He also pressed her on the email controversy, though Holt himself did not question Clinton on either issue.
A New York Times reporter wrote on Twitter that Trump "accurately" called out Clinton's about face on the trade matter.
Still, many in the media lauded his performance.
"I think Lester Holt is doing a very good job," said former NBC "Meet the Press" host David Gregory on Twitter.