In the immediate aftermath of Monday's presidential debate, Donald Trump had nothing but praise for moderator Lester Holt.
"I thought Lester did a great job," the Republican nominee told CNN, adding that he thought the evening's questions were fair.
By the time he appeared on "Fox & Friends" Tuesday morning, however, Trump had changed his mind: "I'd give him a C, C+. I thought he was fine. Nothing outstanding. I thought he gave me very unfair questions at the end — the last three, four questions."
Among Trump's other complaints: His microphone was too low and wasn't working properly. On TV, anyway, there were no audio problems.
It is not hard to figure out what is going on here. Trump, whose default mode is "winning," felt good right after the debate and therefore had no gripes. Then he found out he lost in the eyes of most viewers — and seemingly, members of Congress, too. Now he needs to put the blame somewhere. Continuing a familiar pattern, he picked a member of the media and a piece of equipment. (Remember when he blamed his refusal to disavow David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan on a bad earpiece?)
Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, also said right after the debate that "Lester Holt did a great job as the moderator." But other surrogates seemed to sense more quickly that their candidate fared poorly, and were swift to bash Holt.
"Where is the issue of Hillary Clinton talking about the 'deplorables' in his campaign?" former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski wondered on CNN.
"If he was going to ask Donald Trump about his taxes, he certainly could have asked Hillary Clinton about all the money she got from Wall Street and [why she] refuses to disclose the speeches that she made," Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) said in the spin room.
"It’s outrageous that Lester Holt interfered in a legal discussion he knows nothing about on the side of Hillary Clinton," former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani told reporters Monday night, referring to the NBC News anchor's question about Trump's support of "stop-and-frisk" policing. "I didn't see him once interfere on the side of Donald Trump. And I would say he did Candy Crowley about four times tonight."
Holt said — accurately — that "stop-and-frisk was ruled unconstitutional in New York because it largely singled out black and Hispanic young men." Trump disputed this fact.
Giuliani's Crowley reference harks back to a memorable moment in a 2012 presidential debate, when Crowley attempted to fact-check Mitt Romney on President Obama's characterization of that year's attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. Romney claimed that Obama failed to call the attack an "act of terror" right away; Crowley said that wasn't true. Republicans threw a fit and still haven't forgotten the exchange.
The trouble for Crowley was that Obama's words on the day after the attack could reasonably be interpreted different ways. In an address from the White House Rose Garden, Obama talked about Benghazi, referred to 9/11 and said "no acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation." Crowley clearly thought Obama was putting Benghazi in the "acts of terror" category, but others thought he was simply talking about terrorism, in general, and not putting a label on what happened in Libya.
Contrary to Giuliani's assertion, Holt had no such questionable fact-checks Monday. But Trump said in the run-up to the debate that he expected unfair treatment, so he and his team appear to be looking for validation — not to mention a scapegoat for his uninspiring showing.