CNN host rips debate conspiracy: 'It's not Lester Holt's fault when Trump lies more than Clinton'
Brian Stelter, John Avalon and Tim Graham (CNN/screen grab)

CNN media critic Brian Stelter shot down a conspiracy theory floated by Donald Trump's campaign that debate moderator Lester Holt interrupted the Republican nominee more often because he was biased in favor of Hillary Clinton.

On Sunday's edition of Reliable Sources, Stelter tried to square the fact that Trump had quickly praised Holt following Monday night's debate but then later criticized the moderator after scientific polls showed that Clinton had won.

"If Lester Holt was refereeing a football game, he would have gotten thrown out of the stadium," Tim Graham, executive editor of the conservative website Newsbusters, opined in Trump's defense. "I think the Saturday Night Live skit I would have done if I was running the show would be Lester Holt -- it would sort of be like the end of Top Gun where he lands on the flight deck after beating the Russians and everybody applauds him."

"Obviously, the whole news media before the debate was was telling Lester, 'Truth squad Trump,'" Graham complained. "He heard the lesson and he obviously did this in a way that was completely one-sided."

Stelter interrupted: "It's not Lester Holt's fault when Donald Trump lies more than Clinton on the stage."

"But the whole assumption of liberal media is Hillary somehow never lies," Graham insisted. "Everybody cites Politifact and says Hillary never lies. The fact of the matter is, why is her trustworthy level so low? Because people have watched her over decades lie about everything."

CNN political analyst John Avlon argued that Politifact's fact checking "is as close as we're going to get to an objective tallying" of the candidates' honesty.

"We know that Donald Trump is, at the end of the day, a hype man," Avlon said. "He admits freely he engages in hyperbole. The problem is that crosses into demagoguery in a political context. Hillary Clinton has problems with honesty and trustworthy -- we know that from polls -- in part because for 25 years she's been demonized by partisan media."

"It is the job of journalists to insist on a fact-based debate," he continued. "Increasingly, we are recognizing that it is also our job to call out lies and to call them lies and not default to this 'on the one hand and the other' moral relativism."

"And those of you on the side of partisan media who say that the implicit bias of the mainstream media over the years can only be corrected by explicit bias. Well, you've carried the day for a while, but now people are hip to your tricks."

Avlon concluded by charging that Graham's organization, Newsbusters, had a "real credibility problem" because it "perpetuates the polarization" by focusing on only one side of the problem.

"You have explicit favor in your donors and your ideological agenda from day one," Avlon declared. "And that's why your credibility fails."

Watch the video below from CNN, broadcast Oct. 2, 2106.