Sep 30, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Chris Wallace reflects on debate: "I’ve never been through anything like this"

Chris Wallace.

Chris Wallace. Photo: Morry Gash-Pool/Getty Images

Fox News host Chris Wallace called Tuesday night's presidential debate between President Trump and Joe Biden "a missed opportunity" in an interview with the New York Times Wednesday.

Why it matters: Much of the national discussion after the hectic debate has centered on whether Wallace failed to control the candidates, especially President Trump, whose interruptions set the tone for the night. "I never dreamt that it would go off the tracks the way it did," Wallace told the Times Wednesday.

  • “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.”
  • “I’m just sad with the way last night turned out.”

Between the lines: Wallace is a veteran of the business and has moderated a presidential debate with Donald Trump before. Wallace was lauded last year for his ability to tame Trump during the third debate of the 2016 election between Trump and Hillary Clinton.

  • “I’m a pro. I’ve never been through anything like this," Wallace said.

What he's saying: “You’re reluctant — as somebody who has said from the very beginning that I wanted to be as invisible as possible, and to enable them to talk — to rise to the point at which you begin to interject more and more,” Wallace said.

  • “First to say, ‘Please don’t interrupt,’ then ‘Please obey the rules,’ and third, ‘This isn’t serving the country well.’ Those are all tough steps at real time, at that moment, on that stage.”
  • "If I didn’t try to seize control of the debate — which I don’t know that I ever really did — then it was going to just go completely off the tracks."

Where it stands: The Commission on Presidential Debates announced Wednesday that it plans to implement changes to rules for the remaining debates to include "additional structure." Wallace expressed skepticism at the idea of muting a candidate's microphone in future debates, a proposal that has been floated on social media.

  • “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.
  • "People have to remember, and too many people forget, both of these candidates have the support of tens of millions of Americans."
  • Asked if Trump derailed the debate, Wallace responded, “Well, he certainly didn’t help.”

The bottom line: “Generally speaking, I did as well as I could, so I don’t have any second thoughts there,” Wallace said.

  • “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.”
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