Fox News anchor Chris Wallace expressed regret on Wednesday after the chaotic nature of the presidential debate he moderated on Tuesday was met with fierce criticism.
“I’m just sad with the way last night turned out,” Wallace said in a phone interview with The New York Times about the first square-off between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden. He further characterized the tense 90-minute back-and-forth as “a terrible missed opportunity.”
Explaining how he “never never dreamt that it would go off the tracks the way it did,” Wallace also addressed the widespread criticism of his moderating. “I’ve read some of the reviews, I know people think, well, gee, I didn’t jump in soon enough,” he said, referring to Trump’s interruptions. “I guess I didn’t realize — and there was no way you could, hindsight being 20/20 — that this was going to be the president’s strategy, not just for the beginning of the debate but the entire debate.”
Claiming he is “a pro,” Wallace said he thought at the time, “I’ve never been through anything like this.” Claiming he attempted to “seize control” of the debate to keep it from going “completely off the tracks,” Wallace conceded that he is unsure if he succeeded, admitting he felt “desperation” when he tried to maintain decorum.
Wallace was unwilling to speak at length with the Times regarding his opinion of whether Trump was to blame for the heated tone of the event, saying simply, “To quote the president, ‘It is what it is.'”
The debate was widely panned by both sides of the aisle. A focus group told Republican pollster Frank Luntz that both sides lost, with some even saying they were encouraged not to vote at all.
“I have never had a session blow up where the participants were disappointed on both sides, where everyone was embarrassed and everyone was upset about what had happened,” Luntz said on CNBC on Wednesday.
Wallace also faced poor reviews, including from the president himself.
President Donald Trump criticized Fox News anchor Chris Wallace for his performance as Tuesday’s presidential debate moderator.
“Chris had a tough night,” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. “Two on one was not surprising, but fun. Many important points made, like throwing Bernie, AOC PLUS 3, and the rest, to the wolves! Radical Left is dumping Sleepy Joe. Zero Democrat enthusiasm, WEAK Leadership!” […]
Wallace in particular took heavy criticism from those claiming he failed to maintain control during the contentious 90 minutes during which he interrupted Trump repeatedly. […]
Even some of his Fox News colleagues took Wallace to task. Fox & Friends host Brian Kilmeade wrote, “Why is [Biden] allowed to interrupt? [Trump] is not.” Host Laura Ingraham said, “Biden seems to interrupt with impunity,” and host Greg Gutfeld described his laughing along with Biden as “not good.” Former host Bill O’Reilly said, “Chris Wallace doesn’t have the facts at his command about the Ukraine payments made to Biden’s son that Trump brought up. Big mistake by Mr. Wallace.”