As the third and final presidential debate fast approaches, it is important to consider the moderator Chris Wallace and his relationship with the two presidential nominees.
The Fox News host is the son of famed newscaster Mike Wallace and has developed a stellar reputation as a tough interviewer, and certainly, among the top few conservative newscasters in the country.
Though he has been working for conservative Fox News since 2003, he has the respect of most Republicans and Democrats alike and is considered to be a fair reporter.
Here are five important facts relevant to the final presidential debate:
1. Many questioned Wallace being picked to moderate a presidential debate because of his relationship with Roger Ailes, the former Fox chief who earlier this year left the network under a barrage of accusations of sexual harassment. Wallace has publicly defended Ailes, who is also a close, long time friend of the Republican nominee Donald Trump and who has served as an adviser for him. His detractors have claimed that his relationship and defense of Roger Ailes produces an irreconcilable conflict of interest for him as a moderator.
2. Wallace has been on record taking the position that the media has been too easy on Donald Trump, a claim which is hotly disputed by Trump and his supporters as they claim that the media is very biased against the candidate. In fact, more recently, Trump’s campaign has claimed that the media is the major player in its claim that the elections are rigged.
In January, Wallace said “I think if anything, the media has treated him too well,” referring to the billionaire businessman during an interview. “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.” Wallace was not alone in his claim. In fact, candidates have since made similar claims.
3. Though he is conservative, Wallace should not be expected to be throwing many softballs at the Republican nominee. Wallace actually was one of the moderators at a Republican primary debate in March of this year.
During that debate, the reporter presented a very tough line of questioning, which he supplemented with graphics which he used to fact check Trump, famously stating “Your numbers don’t add up, sir.” And as Trump proceeded undeterred by the original fact check, Wallace confronted him with more.
When he was interviewed by the Washington Post, he described this as setting a “bear trap” for Trump, being careful to mention that it is the same thing he does with his guests each week. Wallace said “I think it’s literally the only time a graphic has gotten an ovation at a debate.”
4. Importantly, Wallace said very soon after he was selected as a moderator for the general election debate that he would not be fact checking the candidates. In an interview with Huffington Post, he said:
“That’s not my job. 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, he did leave the door open to fact checking when he said “This is a debate. 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.”
It is also unclear whether Wallace considers his “bear traps” to be fact checking. He may well use those with the candidates.
5. Chris Wallace is the only Fox News personality with whom Hillary Clinton has had a sit down interview during the general election. During that session, Wallace presented the former Secretary of State with some very tough questioning, particularly regarding “emailgate.”
“Chris, that’s not what I heard Director Comey say, and I thank you for giving me the opportunity, in my view, to clarify. Director Comey said my answers were truthful, and what I’ve said is consistent with what i have told the American people, that there were decisions discussed and made to classify retroactively certain of the e-mails. I was communicating with over 300 people in my e-mailing. They certainly did not believe and had no reason to believe that what they were sending was classified. In retrospect, different agencies come in and say, well, it should have been, but that’s not what was happening in real time.”