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Chris Wallace shocked the media world on Sunday when he suddenly announced at the end of his Sunday political talk show that he was leaving Fox News, effective immediately. He will be joining the network’s rival CNN to host a weekday show on the channel’s new streaming service.
The Fox News Sunday moderator had long been the face of the right-wing network’s “straight news” division, lending the channel an air of gravitas and respectability whenever he was on-air.
Despite working for Fox News, long criticized as a communications arm of the Republican Party and conservative movement, Wallace was equally tough on GOP politicians as he was on Democratic ones. The 74-year-old anchor received plaudits for his no-nonsense interviewing style: Rarely a Sunday went by where Wallace didn’t draw headlines for “grilling” a hapless lawmaker.
That tell-it-like-it-is mantra also resulted in him calling out his own Fox News cohorts when they relied too heavily on talking points or pushed false narratives. This tendency seemingly increased in recent years—especially following Donald Trump’s election and the network’s opinion hosts falling in lockstep with the administration.
To mark the end of an era at Fox News, below are six times Wallace clashed and feuded with his right-wing colleagues.
Wallace and Laura Ingraham Battle Over Bill Barr
After if was revealed that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had sent a letter to then-Attorney General William Barr complaining that Barr’s infamous letter summarizing the Mueller Report “did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office’s work and conclusions,” Wallace took to Fox News airwaves said Barr’s reputation would take a hit. Ahead of Barr’s May 2019 Senate testimony, Wallace noted that Democrats would press Barr because they “feel he has misled the country on the essential contents of the report.”
Fox News host Laura Ingraham, a loyal Trump acolyte, would jump on the broadcast a little later to bash the consummate newsman. “Now, I know Chris Wallace at the top of your hour was indicating that I guess that he kind of agrees with these other cable networks that this was an attempt by the DOJ to spin what the conversation was between Barr and Mueller,” she groused. “So I don’t know if Chris Wallace has information that I don’t have, but that he is saying that Barr is perpetuating a lie about this conversation between him and Mueller?”
She went on to say that the “reporting on this and much of the commentary on this to be harmful and frankly very disturbing,” adding that she was “watching this in real-time and this is not spin.”
Hours later, Wallace returned fire, though he notably did not call Ingraham out by name.
“I know there are some people who don’t think this March 27th letter is a big deal and some opinion people, some opinion people who appear on this network who may be pushing a political agenda but, you know, we have to deal in facts,” he said on the broadcast of fellow “hard news” anchor Shepard Smith—who has since departed Fox News.
“A lot of people, having read now the full report or as much as it has been not redacted, you know, agree that he didn’t reveal what was fully in the report,” Wallace concluded. “Again, those aren’t opinions. That’s not a political agenda. Those are the facts.”
“Get Your Facts Straight!”
During Trump’s first impeachment trial, tensions boiled over during a panel segment featuring Wallace telling right-wing commentator Katie Pavlich that she needed to get her “facts straight.”
At the time, some senators were considering calling former National Security Adviser John Bolton regarding bombshell claims he made about Trump holding up Ukraine aid, prompting Pavlich to say the House should have presented a “complete case” and it was too late to call Bolton to testify.
“That’s not true, that’s not true,” Wallace exclaimed. “They hadn’t all been called in the House, and in the Clinton impeachment, they’d been called by the general independent counsel. They had not been called by the House.”
Pavlich, meanwhile, continued to argue that “process does matter” and that the Justice Department decided not to investigate whistleblower information, prompting Wallace to note that Pavlich’s argument “just isn’t true.”
“So to say that in the Clinton investigation these people were interviewed by the House, one, they weren’t,” a frustrated Wallace eventually declared. “And to say it wasn’t done by the Justice Department, because the Justice Department refused to carry out the investigation. Get your facts straight!”
Eventually, anchor Bret Baier, who was moderating the panel discussion, finally jumped in: “Okay, let’s tone it down!”
“Deeply Misleading” Spin
It wasn’t always pro-Trump spin artists and conservative pundits with whom Wallace found himself in an on-air struggle. Sometimes, he got into it with his other “straight news” colleagues.
After the public release of the explosive whistleblower complaint that was at the center of Trump’s first impeachment, Wallace took issue with daytime anchor Sandra Smith essentially parroting White House talking points to claim it was all much ado about nothing.
“Did it change anything?” Smith wondered aloud, prompting Wallace to retort: “Oh, I think it’s changed quite a lot, Sandra. And the spinning that has been done by the president’s defenders over the last 24 hours since this very damaging whistleblower complaint came out, the spinning is not surprising, but it is astonishing, and I think deeply misleading.”
Smith eventually echoed the Trump administration’s insistence that there was no “quid pro quo” laid out in the notorious phone call between Trump and the Ukrainian president, leading the veteran newsman to vehemently disagree.
“You don’t think that dirt on Joe Biden and Joe Biden’s son is a thing of value?” Wallace asked.
As Smith attempted to interject, Wallace demanded that she let him answer her initial question, adding that while he didn’t think there’s a “hot solid case” for impeachment, he did believe that it’s “clear from reading the complaint is that it is a serious allegation” and much of it had already “proven to be borne out.”
Stop Bashing the Media!
Wallace also made it publicly known that he wasn’t too keen on his opinionated colleagues embracing Trump’s “fake news” stance and constantly trashing the rest of the media. During a 2017 interview with the Associated Press, Wallace suggested there was a growing rift between the network’s hard news and opinion divisions over the subject.
“It bothers me,” he stated. “If they want to say they like Trump, or that they’re upset with the Democrats, that’s fine. That’s opinion. That’s what they do for a living.”
Wallace continued: “I don’t like them bashing the media, because oftentimes what they’re bashing is stuff that we on the news side are doing. I don’t think they recognize that they have a role at Fox News and we have a role at Fox News. I don’t know what’s in their head. I just think it’s bad form.”
While he didn’t name any names, it was obvious at the time that he was referencing Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro, and the hosts of Fox & Friends—all of whom had already taken to parroting the then-president’s attacks on the press and defending him on every issue.
“I Don’t Think That’s Right!”
Another instance of Wallace clashing with Pavlich, this time over vigilantism and whether it is justified. After teenager Kyle Rittenhouse killed two men and shot another during fiery Black Lives Matter protests in Kenosha—Rittenhouse was recently acquitted of murder charges on the basis of self-defense—Wallace took issue with Pavlich’s seeming endorsement of “vigilante justice” during an August 2020 broadcast of midday roundtable show Outnumbered.
“I’ve got to push back on something we said at the end of the last segment,” he remarked. “Because there seemed to be the implication that somehow vigilante justice was understandable or justified by the lack of sufficient police action and authority and presence in some of the cities.”
With co-host Melissa Francis and Pavlich objecting, claiming the conservative commentator didn’t say that, Wallace pushed back as the rest of the panel piled on.
“Vigilantes were filling the void from police,” he asserted, repeating Pavlich’s earlier argument. “Just as it is fair to say that rioting and looting is a completely inappropriate response to George Floyd or Jacob Blake, vigilante justice is a completely inappropriate response to the rioting in the street. There is no justification for what happened in Kenosha. And vigilante justice is a crime and should be punished as a crime.”
After anchor Harris Faulkner insisted that “we did not say that before,” Wallace stood his ground: “You were saying to ‘fill a void.’ I don’t think that’s right.”
Wallace Objects to Bosses About Tucker Carlson’s Deranged Doc
Weeks before he announced he was leaving Fox News for good, Wallace reportedly made his displeasure known to management about Tucker Carlson’s revisionist Jan. 6 documentary Patriot Purge. The three-part series, which aired on Fox News streaming service Fox Nation, promoted a number of baseless and outright false claims about the Capitol insurrection—such as the conspiracy theory that it was a “false flag” operation orchestrated by the federal government.
According to NPR, Wallace and Baier both shared their objections with Fox News president Jay Wallace. Their complaints over the content of Carlson's special—which suggests “legacy Americans” are the target of a “new war on terror”—eventually rose all the way to Lachlan Murdoch, the CEO of Fox News’ parent company.
Beyond internally pushing back on the inflammatory program, Wallace also gave airtime to Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) to criticize both Carlson and Fox News for airing the “un-American” and “dangerous” docu-series. And Wallace himself appeared to throw shade Carlson’s way.
“You know, there were always divisions and we’ve always argued about policy,” Wallace said. “What strikes me as different now but not just now but in recent years is that we argue over facts. We argue over the truth.”
“Congresswoman Cheney, there is talk now that January 6 was a false flag operation. That it was a case of liberals in the deep state setting up conservatives and Trump supporters,” he added. “Is there any truth to that?”
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