Ratings Debacle Deepens for Lester Holt, NBC Following His ‘Biased’ Debate Fail

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By Andrew Stiles | 2:37 pm, October 18, 2016

Lester Holt’s Nightly News program on NBC suffered another ratings loss last week, ranking behind ABC’s World News Tonight for the third time in four weeks following Holt’s widely criticized performance as moderator of the first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton on September 26.

World News Tonight edged out Nightly News for the week of Oct. 10, pulling in 8.291 million viewers, compared to NBC’s 8.045 million. The ratings announcement comes as flailing NBC also deals with the fallout of the leaked Access Hollywood tape showing Donald Trump making lewd comments about women in a conversation with host Billy Bush, who was just fired by NBC.

NBC is also under pressure to release its full 1999 interview with Juanita Broaddrick, who accuses Bill Clinton of raping her in the 1970s. Former NBC News investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff says NBC is sitting on comments Broaddrick made that criticize Hillary Clinton for her role in helping cover up the alleged rape.

As for Lester Holt, his ratings slide is believed to be a direct result of his performance as moderator of the first presidential debate, when many viewers found his questions and attitude hostile to Trump. ABC’s evening news, hosted by David Muir, first passed Holt in the week immediately following that debate.

The ratings losses are a major embarrassment for NBC and Nightly News, which just celebrated its 20th season as the highest-rated program among all demos. It is also a stunning upset for ABC and World News Tonight, which hasn’t done so well since 1999-2000. ABC now leads Nightly news for the current “TV season”.

Following compulsive liar Brian Williams’ ouster as Nightly News anchor,  the largely unknown Holt, the “accidental anchor”, had been expected to fall behind the better established Muir in the ratings. But much to ABC’s consternation, that didn’t happen, and heading into the debate Holt appeared to have established himself comfortably as the pre-eminent evening news anchor.

It now appears that Holt may have gravely erred in going after Trump in the debate, abdicating his rule of the evening news by alienating Trump supporters.

The bulk of NBC’s losses were among older viewers. NBC continues to beat ABC in the so-called “news demo” of adults ages 25-54, but is losing in terms of total viewers, presumably because older Americans, who are more likely to support Trump, are tuning out.

Holt’s ratings woes are increasing speculation inside NBC that Brian Williams may be poised to retake his evening news anchor chair after a degrading period of exile at MSNBC.