Fox News anchor Chris Wallace responded to criticism Thursday over his moderating of the chaotic first debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden earlier in the week, saying that Trump ruined his plans for a “substantive” discussion.
What are the details?
Speaking on Fox News’ “Bill Hemmer Reports,” Wallace told the host he initially thought the night started off well after Trump and Biden each answered their first questions. But from that point, things went off the rails.
“It became clearer and clearer over time that this was something different and that the president was determined to try to butt in, and throw Joe Biden off,” Wallace said, before citing a Fox analysis “that indicates the president interrupted either Biden’s answers or my questions a total of 145 times.”
The veteran journalist said the president “bears the primary responsibility for what happened on Tuesday,” adding that Trump interrupted Biden more than twice as many times as Biden interrupted him.
Wallace went on to explain how he tried to rein things in during the debate, before explaining, “Literally, hundreds of man hours and woman hours between me and my researcher went in to try to prepare a substantive debate and on so many issues — Biden’s tax and spending plans, Trump’s climate and environmental policies.”
“You know, I was really hoping for the debate that I think America wanted to see,” he continued, “which was a serious exchange of views.”
Wallace then made an analogy in describing how he felt while moderating, telling Hemmer, “I felt like I had gotten together all of the ingredients, I had baked this beautiful, delicious cake, and then, frankly, the president put his foot in it.”
Wallace has taken heat for not doing more as moderator to control the 90-minute back-and-forth between Trump and Biden, which was full of interruptions and insults from both sides. But Fox News Media executives defended the “Fox News Sunday” host’s performance, saying in an internal memo after the debate, “No moderator could have managed a debate of that magnitude better than Chris.”
Wallace told The New York Times the day after the event, “Generally speaking, I did as well as I could, so I don’t have any second thoughts there.”
He added, “I’m just disappointed with the results. For me, but much more importantly, I’m disappointed for the country, because it could have been a much more useful evening than it turned out to be.”