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Chris Wallace on Trump-Biden debate: "I never dreamt that it would go off the tracks the way it did"

  • “I’m just sad with the way last night turned out," the Fox News Sunday anchor told The New York Times this afternoon after he was widely criticized for failing to reign in President Trump's relentless interruptions during the debate. Wallace called the debate "a terrible missed opportunity," adding with his hoarse voice: “I’ve read some of the reviews, I know people think, Well, gee, I didn’t jump in soon enough. 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.” Wallace recalled thinking to himself during the debate, “I’m a pro. I’ve never been through anything like this.” Asked directly if Trump had derailed the debate, Wallace replied: “Well, he certainly didn’t help.” Care to elaborate? “No,” Wallace said. "To quote the president, ‘It is what it is.'" Wallace also said he was not on board with a popular idea to have the moderator cut off the mic to stop interruptions. “As a practical matter, even if the president’s microphone had been shut, he still could have continued to interrupt, and it might well have been picked up on Biden’s microphone, and it still would have disrupted the proceedings in the hall,” Wallace said. He also noted the ramifications of cutting off the mic: “People have to remember, and too many people forget, both of these candidates have the support of tens of millions of Americans,” he said.


    • Debate commission is seriously considering cutting off mics if Trump or Biden breaks the rules in the next two debates: "The commission that oversees the general election presidential debates said Wednesday it will be making changes to the format of the remaining two debates," reports CBS News. "One key change it plans to implement: Cutting off the microphones of President Trump and Joe Biden if they break the rules, according to a source familiar with the commission's deliberations. The plans have not been finalized and the commission is still considering how it would carry out the plan."
    • Debate commission may penalize interruptions by giving more time to the opponent, but some members are hesitant to cut off the mic
    • Final viewership numbers: 73.1 million watched the first Trump-Biden debate, the second-largest debate audience in the past 24 years, but far below the record 84 million who watched the first Trump-Clinton debate in 2016.
    • Trump campaign isn't happy with the debate commission's proposed rule changes: "They’re only doing this because their guy got pummeled last night," said Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh. "President Trump was the dominant force and now Joe Biden is trying to work the refs. They shouldn’t be moving the goalposts and changing the rules in the middle of the game."
    • The best evidence Chris Wallace did a good job? Everyone's angry with him: "Not just did he do his level best to keep the train on the rails — but it’s difficult to imagine anyone doing better," says Colby Hall. "He confronted both candidates about interrupting but was far more pointed in chiding President Trump because, well, President Trump was far more disruptive. This is the primary reason why Trump supporters, including many employed by Wallace’s own network Fox News, seemed to blame Trump’s poor performance on the moderator. Talk about blaming deflecting blame. You could also call it working the refs, something Trump has done with Fox News — to alarming success — since the dawn of his 2016 campaign. On the other side of the aisle, the pro-Biden set expressed frustration with Wallace for not keeping Trump quiet so that Biden could get a word in edgewise. But as I noted in my post-debate recap, one cannot reasonably blame Wallace for the debate when one of the participants completely ignores a basic social contract or behavioral standards we expect of third graders."
    • Fox News congratulates Wallace on a job well done: "No moderator could have managed a debate of that magnitude better than Chris"
    • Wallace tried to placate Trump twice during the debate: “Mr. President, you’re going to be very happy because we’re now going to talk about law and order"
    • Interruption is such a familiar form of disrespect: "To be interrupted—in a meeting, in a casual conversation, on a presidential-debate stage—is to be told, with blunt efficiency, that your voice is not as important as the voice of the person who is talking over you," says Megan Garber. "It is to be informed, through the prevention of the words you are trying to utter, that you matter just a little bit less. Welcome to the club, Joe and Chris. The water’s warm, and deeply condescending. Many women, last night, remarked on the ugly intimacy of it all. (Hillary Clinton—who was interrupted by Trump 51 times during a single presidential debate in 2016—was one of them.) But Trump, while he was interrupting Biden and Wallace, was also interrupting the notion of debate itself. He was rejecting the rules he had agreed to. This was one of Donald Trump’s defining traits—his conviction that the rules, whether they relate to taxes or debate questions or human decency, do not apply to him—playing out in real time. 'President Trump acted as the abuser tonight,' MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace (no relation) said, 'and Chris Wallace was among the abused.' In that sense, the interruptions worked as their own empty messages. Much of Trump’s speech doubles as promises made to the people inclined to admire him: You, too, could be rich, or pretend to be. You, too, can insult other people and dismiss their indignation as political correctness. You, too, can do what you want, when you want, because you have defined political freedom as social impunity. So Trump’s bulldozing and steamrolling had a certain inverse eloquence. The interruptions broke the rules of the debate, and delighted in the breaking. They gratified Trump’s delusions of dominance. They spoke to Americans who share Trump’s conviction that destruction is a means to power."

    TOPICS: Chris Wallace, Fox News Channel, Joe Biden, 2020 Presidential Election, Ratings, Trump Presidency