More than 80 million people watched the first presidential debate of the 2016 election, and all eyes were not just on the candidates. The moderator, Lester Holt of NBC's Nightly News, also faced high expectations.
"For the most part, he asked good questions, then got the heck out the way and let them go at each other," Alan Mittelstaedt, a USC Annenberg journalism professor, said. Holt's commentary came mostly when the candidates were running short of time, but he was clear not to sound too assertive to talk over Trump or Clinton.
"There's not much a moderator can do," Roberto Suro, another journalism professor, said. "There were a lot of times that Trump extended his answers, and Holt did try to stop him, but honestly, I don't know what he could've done."
Each candidate was given a two minute period to answer a question, but there were many instances when both Trump and Clinton went over that limit.
"If I had it my way, moderators would be able to pull the plug on the candidates," Mittelstaedt said.
"It seemed like what [Holt] did was a valid strategy," Suro said. "He's a very withdrawn moderator. He doesn't have much of a presence."
Many on Twitter might agree. The #whereislester hashtag quickly surfaced in response to his limited assertions.
Both professors, however, agreed that Holt did a fairly good job in moderating and questioning both candidates.
"He was both a moderator in the classic sense that he throws out a question and lets the candidates answer, but he also hit Trump hard on issues when he tried to be evasive," Mittelstaedt said.
In the beginning of the debate, when Trump said that he would release his tax returns when Clinton releases her emails, Holt challenged Trump by asking "Is this a negotiation?"
At the end of the debate, Holt admitted that they did not get to cover everything within the time limit, but Mittelstaedt believes that the moderator did what he could.
"You can't bring up everything in 90 minutes but there's still a big gap," Mittelstaedt said. "We didn't hear much about social issues like abortion and things that affect people everyday."
Reach Staff Reporter Terry Nguyen here.