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Trump Campaign in Change of Tone Calls Debate Moderator ‘Brilliant’

Trump had said moderator would be under pressure to be tough on GOP candidate.

ByABC News
September 25, 2016, 12:18 PM

— -- Donald Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway today called the NBC Nightly News anchor who will preside over Monday night’s presidential debate a "respected, brilliant newsman," a sharp change in tone for the campaign, which in recent days has claimed that Trump will not be treated fairly in the debates.

"He’ll do a good job tomorrow night as a moderator," Conway said of Lester Holt.

Trump this past week said Holt will be under tremendous pressure to be tough on the Republican presidential candidate and called him a Democrat when in fact Holt is a registered Republican.

Watch the first presidential debate Monday at 9 p.m. ET. Full live coverage and analysis of the debate will begin on at 7 p.m. ET.

Conway took a much softer tone today, telling ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week" that she trusts all the moderators for the upcoming debates and believes they will ask questions "that benefit the voter."

In advance of Monday’s event, the campaigns for Trump and Hillary Clinton have differed on whether Holt and the moderators of subsequent debates should fact-check the candidates or leave it to the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates to challenge each other’s statements.

The Clinton campaign has been pushing for moderators to act as a truth squad.

"All that we're asking is that if Donald Trump lies that it is pointed out," Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said on "This Week."

Conway, in her appearance on "This Week," disagreed. She said moderators should stay out of the fray and not challenge candidates in instances where they may be bending, or breaking, the truth.

"I really don't appreciate campaigns thinking it is the job of the media to go and be these virtual fact-checkers and that these debate moderators should somehow do their bidding," she said.

In a bit of pre-debate hype, Conway likened Trump’s debating skills to a baseball legend, echoing a favorite line of Trump supporter Newt Gingrich.

Trump "is the Babe Ruth of debating," Conway said.

Asked about her expectations of the event, she said: "We certainly hope this debate tomorrow night will be about substantive issues."

As the first general election debate, it will be the first time Americans will see Trump and Clinton go head to head on the same stage, Conway said, adding that she wants it to be about "how do we defeat radical Islamic terrorism" and "how do we stimulate the economy."

"A victory for Donald Trump tomorrow night is answering the questions and showing America that he's ready to be president and commander-in-chief on day one," she concluded.

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