Matt Lauer Questioned Hillary Clinton's Judgment During Sexist Debate Moderation

People who are shocked by the allegations of sexual harassment by Matt Lauer are now saying evidence of his poor treatment of women was hiding in plain sight: his widely criticized performance during a presidential forum last September.

Lauer moderated the Commander-in-Chief forum, grilling then-presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, but some viewers thought he pressed Clinton too hard on her email scandal rather than overseeing the promised discussion about national security issues.

In one telling moment, Lauer interrupted Clinton as she discussed her steadiness and ability to make difficult decisions, saying, “You’re talking about judgment" before steering the conversation towards her use of a private email server while working as Secretary of State.

600037078 Matt Lauer looks on as Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during the NBC News Commander-in-Chief Forum on September 7, 2016 in New York City. Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump are participating in the NBC News Commander-in-Chief Forum. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

“You’re communicating on highly sensitive topics. You’ve said it was a mistake,” said Lauer. “Why wasn’t it more than a mistake? Why wasn’t it disqualifying?”

The insistence on discussing her emails continued throughout the forum, and Lauer spent a full third of Clinton’s allotted time talking about the controversy. Meanwhile, he failed to fact check Trump when he claimed that he had opposed the Iraq war. When Trump rambled about what the U.S. should have done in Iraq, Lauer quickly moved on without pressing him for clarity.

After the debate, one NBC executive described Lauer’s performance as a "disaster,” and the Clinton campaign used Lauer's alleged hostility to seek additional campaign funds.

Clinton had some choice words for Lauer specifically, in her campaign memoir “What Happened."

“Now I was ticked off,” wrote Clinton. "Lauer had turned what should have been a serious discussion into a pointless ambush. What a waste of time."

Clinton said that she felt Lauer gave Trump a much easier time in the debate, asking softer questions and using a more collegial tone.

“I can’t say I didn’t fantasize about shaking some sense into Lauer while I was out there,” she also wrote, also describing her feeling while on stage as “almost physically sick.”

Plenty of viewers were upset with Lauer’s treatment of Clinton. Other networks reportedly changed their strategy to avoid a similar problem, choosing moderators carefully and making sure they were more prepared for a fair fight than Lauer had been. By the morning following the NBC debate, the hashtag “Lauering the Bar” was trending on Twitter, using a twist on “lowering the bar” to describe Lauer’s sexist performance during the televised event.

Obviously, aggressive questioning by a journalist is not evidence of, nor a predictor of, whether that reporter will be a sexual predator in the workplace. But revisiting Lauer's work has prompted debate about his treatment of Clinton, most succinctly by New York Magazine's Rebecca Traister.

"Our National Narratives Are Still Being Shaped by Lecherous, Powerful Men," she wrote.