A record-setting 80.9 million viewers tuned in to watch Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump square off on the debate stage at Hofstra University on Long Island on Monday night. Moderated by NBC News’ Lester Holt, the questioning featured a wide range of issues including trade, tax returns, emails, race and security.
“It’s a very difficult role, has a chance for, if not greatness, but certainly a lot of glory,” legendary news anchor Dan Rather said Tuesday, weighing in on the tough task of moderating a presidential debate. “I thought Lester Holt handled the pressure very well. … In the end, it’s my understanding that both Secretary Clinton and Donald Trump praised Holt — if you can get praise from both sides in this kind of pressure-packed performance. So let’s give a tip of the Stetson to Lester Holt.”
During his first new episode of Dan Rather’s America on Radio Andy, Rather reminded the audience that he lives and reports by what he calls the “anchorman creed,” which means “frequently in error, but never in doubt.”
“I thought in the early going of the debate that Donald Trump did pretty well, at least held his own,” Rather added.
But as the debate continued on, Rather noticed a shift in momentum favoring Clinton.
“Ironically, [Trump’s] accusing her of lacking stamina, i.e. weakness, which every woman knows that translation,” Rather explained. “But in the end, he looked a little saggy in the fading moments, she looked the stronger of the two.”
In a move surprising to life-long political journalists — and one that seemed to signify the weak end to his debate performance —Trump opted to spin for himself. He answered questions from the press, shaking hands with supporters who had made their way into the gaggle and tried to capitalize on missed opportunities and toned down rhetoric from the debate.
Rather pointed specifically to Trump’s comments in the spin room commentary, where Trump said out of “respect for Chelsea [Clinton],” he stopped himself from bringing up Bill Clinton’s past infidelity while on stage.
“Frankly, and I’ll call it for what it is, this is the kind of cheap shot that Donald Trump has specialized in,” Rather said. “He set it up in the debat e… but then as soon as the cameras got to the spin room, he unloads it.”
“Trump, he’s crafty in a lot of ways.”
“We all get excited about these debates,” Rather recalled with a smile on his face having covered televised debates since they first began in 1960. “I was excited as anybody last night.”
Dan Rather’s America airs Tuesdays at 10 a.m. ET on Radio Andy (Ch. 102)
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