What you need to know about Debate Moderator Lester Holt

By Matt Moret / Assistant Opinions Editor

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No matter who wins the first general election debate of 2016 tonight, one person’s face is certain to blanket news coverage roundups, and you may have never even heard of him before.

He’s Lester Holt, and he will be your moderator.

Holt has been the anchor of the NBC Nightly News since June 2015, when NBC removed Brian Williams from the post for lying about several high-profile stories while working as a correspondent for the network. Prior to taking a place behind the big desk, Holt worked for NBC on Dateline and Today as both a reporter and general host, and his work in broadcast journalism extends back to 1981.

Pre-debate pressure on Holt is already higher than on any moderator before him. With concern that Republican nominee Donald Trump will get away with lying on television about his history and policy ideas, Holt has the added burden of holding the least predictable candidate in modern election history accountable. While it is technically not the moderator’s role to fact-check candidates — that’s ultimately supposed to be up to opponents — that task has fallen on Holt’s shoulders.

The situation is further complicated by Trump’s accusation that Holt is a Democrat, and thus potentially biased, despite him being a registered Republican. When confronted on CNN with this information Monday morning, Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway admitted Trump was simply guessing. Holt has not commented on the controversy, but seemingly everyone else in the political analysis world has done it for him.

If the last decade of presidential debates are any indication, the likelihood that either candidate will stick close to the debate’s rules is low. Holding them accountable will fall on Holt, and it will be interesting to see how he deals with Trump’s inevitable attempts to steamroll Clinton and the Democratic nominee’s famous spin skills. If his ability and composure and an anchor is any indication, he should do just fine, but anything can happen come 8:30.

We’re less than an hour away. Hopefully you’re ready, Lester.

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