Chris Wallace Found Fox News’ Relationship with Truth ‘Unsustainable’

The network's longtime weekend anchor couldn't take it anymore.

FILE – Moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News speaks as President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden participate in the first presidential debate in Cleveland on Sept. 29, 2020. Wallace says he’s leaving the network after 18 years and is “ready for a new adventure.” Wallace made the announcement, Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, at the end of the weekly news show he moderates, “Fox News Sunday.”(Olivier Douliery/Pool via AP, File)

I either missed or forgot the announcement that Chris Wallace left his longtime home at Fox News for CNN+ back in December, even though Steven Taylor posted on it here. Now that the new gig has commenced, he spills the beans to the New York Times.

“I just no longer felt comfortable with the programming at Fox.”

Chris Wallace uttered those words matter-of-factly, in between bites of a Sweetgreen salad at his new desk inside the Washington bureau of CNN, the network he joined in January after nearly two decades at Fox News.

For those on the left who admired him, and those on the right who doubted him, it’s a statement that was a long time coming.

A down-the-middle outlier at Fox News who often confounded conservatives by contradicting the network’s right-wing stars, Mr. Wallace was also one of the channel’s fiercest defenders, disappointing liberals who hoped he might denounce colleagues like Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson.

But in December, Mr. Wallace, 74, issued a final verdict: He was done. In a surprise move, he declined to renew his contract as host of “Fox News Sunday” and jumped to archrival CNN. His daily interview show — “Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace?” — starts Tuesday on the new CNN+ streaming service.

So why did Mr. Wallace change the channel?

“I’m fine with opinion: conservative opinion, liberal opinion,” Mr. Wallace said in his first extensive interview about his decision to leave. “But when people start to question the truth — Who won the 2020 election? Was Jan. 6 an insurrection? — I found that unsustainable.”

[…]

But Mr. Wallace also acknowledged that he felt a shift at Fox News in the months after Donald J. Trump’s defeat in 2020 — a period when the channel ended its 7 p.m. newscast, fired the political editor who helped project a Trump loss in Arizona on election night and promoted hosts like Mr. Carlson who downplayed the Jan. 6 riot.

He confirmed reports that he was so alarmed by Mr. Carlson’s documentary “Patriot Purge” — which falsely suggested the Jan. 6 Capitol riot was a “false flag” operation intended to demonize conservatives — that he complained directly to Fox News management.

“Before, I found it was an environment in which I could do my job and feel good about my involvement at Fox,” Mr. Wallace said of his time at the network. “And since November of 2020, that just became unsustainable, increasingly unsustainable as time went on.”

Still, he acknowledged that some viewers may wonder why he did not leave earlier.

“Some people might have drawn the line earlier, or at a different point,” he said, adding: “I think Fox has changed over the course of the last year and a half. But I can certainly understand where somebody would say, ‘Gee, you were a slow learner, Chris.'”

I’m sure most OTB commenters will have the same reaction but I’m sympathetic.

As I’ve noted many times before, I was a fairly early adopter of Fox News, starting to watch its nightly news show, “Special Report with Brit Hume” and then the weekend “Fox News Sunday with Tony Snow” pretty much from their inception. (It may have been a bit into their run before my Troy, Alabama cable company started carrying it.) The prime time talking heads shows were always hit-or-miss—I was never a big fan of Bill O’Reilly’s pomposity and thought Sean Hannity was a lightweight the first time I heard him as a substitute for Rush Limbaugh—but there was a firewall between news and commentary and even the commentaries had folks like Mara Liason and Juan Williams.

In my short-lived attempt at doing the talking head thing, I appeared a handful of times on their non-prime-time programming, including many times on the Internet-only “Power Play with Chris Stirewalt” show. I’ve had the opportunity to meet the likes of Brit Hume, Fred Barnes, and the late Tony Blankley and found them to be congenial folks.

I’m sure that Wallace, who presumably formed friendships with a lot of people at the network, was able to convince himself that the channel was doing more good than harm and that, really, nobody was taking Steve Doocy or Tucker Carlson seriously given that they are transparently buffoons. Motivated reasoning is a powerful impulse.

FILED UNDER: Media
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Tim D. says:

    The good news here is that Chris Wallace saying these truths out loud will have way more impact than (say) annoyed progressives saying this stuff over and over.

    The bad news is that Fox will get deeper into its bubble as they drive out the last few reasonable people.

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  2. Jerry says:

    Chris wears blinders. That he fell into the CNN pit is proof that he is and was always a liberal with no understanding of “truth”. Its not even worth a comment, which is why there are only two here after I hit the “Submit” button. He got his job because his dad actually did his own job correctly. America will pay the ultimate price for allowing liberalism to flourish, and for allowing the staggering corruption in positions of leadership and influence that it has allowed. The people will not stand up and fight for anything other than BLM, Antifa and the other social cancers that plague us.

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  3. gVOR08 says:

    As always, I guess we need to welcome any defectors from the dark side, but he sure lent a veneer of respectability to FOX for a very long time.

    I’m frequently reminded of my then Congressman, John B. Anderson. He wrote a memoir saying he was tired of the Bircherite nonsense he’d had to pander to. After retiring from a 20 year career in the House. Another slow learner.

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  4. Matt Bernius says:

    @Tim D.:

    The good news here is that Chris Wallace saying these truths out loud will have way more impact than (say) annoyed progressives saying this stuff over and over.

    Honestly, will it.

    Who is still on the fence about this issue? I hate to be cynical but given that at the end of the day Fox News is driven first and foremost by profit, until they start losing audience and losing advertisements for sustained periods (i.e. major advertisers drop them and DON’T come back vs just dropping ads until a controversy blows over) there is no impatice for change in direction.

    The Dominion lawsuit might have some impact, but those just don’t happen often enough to really change practices in the long term.

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  5. Tim D. says:

    @Matt Bernius: Fair. Your cynicism is warranted. Perhaps I should have said “marginally more impact.” Not to be ghoulish, but I wonder what will happen when Murdoch dies.

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  6. Michael Cain says:

    @Tim D.:

    but I wonder what will happen when Murdoch dies.

    The son that’s as loony as he is appears to be winning control of at least the News side of the business.

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  7. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Michael Cain:

    The solution to Fox News is to pressure the cable companies and services like Hulu and Google TV etc, to drop Fox or at least move it to the category where the subscriber would need to pay extra to receive Fox. If Comcast and others dropped Fox it would put Murdoch in a world of hurt. Even if it remained on the internet services the Fox audience isn’t going to follow it there.

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  8. wr says:

    @Jerry: You know, if you love autocracy and fascism that much, Valdimir Putin is looking for a few good men. And you’d have your chance to help destroy a democracy!

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  9. gVOR08 says:

    @Michael Cain:

    The son that’s as loony as he is appears to be winning control of at least the News side of the business.

    But is he competent? There seems to be a rule that the third generation screws up the family business. (Donald Sr. is #3. (ok, also #2)) Rupert’s father, Sir Keith, bought a minority interest in News Limited, owner of a couple anti-union newspapers. Rupert inherited and expanded what became News Corp. So Lachlan is third gen. As per yesterday’s discussion of Ginni Thomas, it doesn’t speak well for him that he apparently believes the nonsense he peddles.

    (Trivia. If you remember The King’s Speech, Sir Keith received speech therapy from Lionel Logue. )

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  10. al Ameda says:

    @Jerry:

    America will pay the ultimate price for allowing liberalism to flourish, and for allowing the staggering corruption in positions of leadership and influence that it has allowed. The people will not stand up and fight for anything other than BLM, Antifa and the other social cancers that plague us.

    The price we’re paying now is the result of the 4 year presidency Donald Trump. And evidently about 70% of Republicans support and continue to want the open corruption and criminal activity that Trump brought to the White House.

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  11. Mister Bluster says:

    @Jerry:..America will pay the ultimate price…

    Now you are predicting the future. Please be more specific. Help us all understand what the “ultimate price” is and when it will be paid. Exact dates.
    Oh, by the way if “Its (sic) not even worth a comment,..” why are you here?

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  12. Scott O says:

    @Mister Bluster: Just a guess but I think the ultimate price may be a deluge of word salad, the likes of which have never been seen before.

    ReplyReply

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