Fox News’ Chris Wallace is the moderator of the third and final presidential debate tonight.
Wallace has worked for the network since 2003, hosting Fox News Sunday With Chris Wallace since that time. He is the first Fox host to ever moderate a presidential debate. Some have complained about Wallace’s involvement, saying that it’s a conflict of interest considering Fox News’ ex-CEO, Roger Ailes, recently started serving as an adviser for Donald Trump. Wallace has also publicly defended Ailes against allegations of sexual harassment.
Overall, though, most Republicans and Democrats consider Wallace to be a fair reporter, and he certainly is not overtly partisan in the way that Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly are, for example.
Donald Trump is known to feud with just about every journalist who challenges him, so what has been the relationship between Chris Wallace and Donald Trump over the past year or so? Here’s what you need to know.
1. During the Primary Season, Trump Never Went on Wallace’s Show
Chris Wallace is the host of Fox News Sunday, but strangely, this was just about the only Sunday morning show that Trump never appeared on during his campaign. This was during the time where Trump gained most of his media coverage from media appearances.
So why didn’t he ever go on Wallace’s show? It wasn’t any sort of boycott; rather, Wallace was not comfortable having a guest phone into the show. Most news programs require guests to at least appear over satellite if they aren’t going to show up in person, but they all made exceptions for Trump, who would call in on the phone and not have to be seen on screen. Wallace was not willing to make this exception.
“The idea you would do a phoner with a presidential candidate where they have all the control and you have none, where you can’t see them, they may have talking points in from of them,” Wallace said. “We are not a call-in radio show, we are a Sunday talk show and he is a presidential candidate — do an interview on camera.”
2. Wallace Says the Media Went Too Easy on Donald Trump
Donald Trump is currently telling his supporters that the media is ganging up on him and trying to “rig” the election through negative coverage. But back in January, Chris Wallace had the opposite view: he felt that the media was actually not hard enough on Trump.
Specifically, Wallace called back to that issue of phone interviews, saying that the news shows shouldn’t have made an exception by allowing Trump to do call-in interviews when no other politician is allowed to do so.
“I think if anything, the media has treated him too well,” Wallace said in an interview with TheWrap. “By that I mean they’ve allowed him to play by different rules…If I were another candidate I’d be going a little bit crazy about the fact that Trump gets so much more air time than anyone else does.”
Some others in the media have expressed this as well, feeling that TV news especially gave Trump far too much free coverage during the early months of the campaign, mainly because it was good for ratings. CNN President Jeff Zucker, for instance, recently said that the network probably made a mistake by broadcasting so many Trump rallies completely uninterrupted when they did not do the same for basically any other candidate.
3. Wallace Confronted Trump With a Fact Check at a Previous Debate
One of the most challenging moments Donald Trump had during a Republican primary debate came back in March, when Chris Wallace was one of the event’s moderators. Donald Trump was talking about his plan for reducing the federal deficit. He said he would do so by cutting some federal spending, but Chris Wallace stepped in with a fact check, putting up a graphic on screen that showed that even if Trump completely cut departments like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Education, it would make very little difference in lowering the deficit.
“Your numbers don’t add up, sir,” Wallace said to Trump.
Trump proceeded to talk about how he would save money by negotiating down drug costs, but Wallace was ready to go with another fact check. He pointed out that Trump says he would save $300 billion by negotiating Medicare drug prices, yet Medicare itself only spends $78 billion a year.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Chris Wallace described this as setting a “bear trap” for Donald Trump, though he says this was not just for Trump and that he does this with guests every week on his show.
“I think it’s literally the only time a graphic has gotten an ovation at a debate,” Wallace added.
4. He Does Not Plan to Fact Check Trump Tonight
However, it doesn’t sound like we’re going to see more of that Chris Wallace fact-checking tonight. Leading up to the final presidential debate, Chris Wallace said that he doesn’t think it’s his job to step in and argue with the candidates.
“That’s not my job,” Wallace said. “I do not believe that it’s my job to be a truth squad. It’s up to the other person to catch them on that. I certainly am going to try to maintain some semblance of equal time if one of them is filibustering, I’m going to try to break in respectfully and give the other person a chance to talk.”
However, Wallace did say that if the candidates don’t fact check each other, he’s open to stepping in and doing so himself.
“This is a debate,” Wallace said. “And, you know, they’re both going to be on the stage. If I think there’s a need for me to intervene, I will, but I would prefer not to.”
5. Trump Has Said That Wallace Is Not Professional
Not long after Trump launched his campaign last year, he went after Chris Wallace on Twitter, making Wallace one of the dozens of journalists Trump has personally attacked on social media.
Chris Wallace’s father, Mike, was a correspondent for 60 minutes until 2006.
Trump, however, has gone back and forth on Chris Wallace quite a bit. When Trump attacked Megyn Kelly for a tough debate question by famously saying that she had “blood coming out of her wherever,” Trump defended himself by saying that he thought Chris Wallace was equally unfair.
Yet in an interview with Bill O’Reilly last month, Trump said that he has always liked Chris Wallace.
“I have done a lot of work with Chris. And, I have never had a problem with him,” Trump said.