Chris Wallace

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  • Media Matters’ Do’s And Don’ts For Moderators And Media Covering The 2016 Presidential Debates

    ››› ››› OLIVIA KITTEL

    The 2016 presidential debates will kick off on September 26, giving voters one of their last chances to judge the candidates on the substance and breadth of their policy proposals. With over 100 million people expected to watch, the stakes could not be higher. Voters are mere months away from selecting the person who will become the president of the United States and whose actions will have an immense impact on their everyday lives. Informing this decision is a responsibility that media cannot afford to take lightly.

  • Fox News’ Reaction To Trump’s Birtherism Was Predictably Terrible

    MSNBC And CNN Debunked Trump’s Lies, Explained How Trump Mainstreamed Birtherism, And Condemned His Manipulation Of The Press

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LOPEZ

    Fox News championed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s latest statement that he believes “President Obama was born in the U.S.” as “political media genius” while CNN and MSNBC noted that Trump’s latest statement follows years of mainstreaming racist birther conspiracy theories, debunked the candidate’s attempt to blame the birther lies on Hillary Clinton, and decried his manipulation of the press.

    After Donald Trump in a September 15 interview with The Washington Post “refused to say whether he believes Obama was born in Hawaii,” the Trump campaign released a falsehood-laden statement saying “Mr. Trump believes that President Obama was born in the United States,” and “was finally able to bring this ugly incident to its conclusion” in 2011.

    The next day Trump announced he’d deliver a “major statement” at his new Washington, D.C. hotel regarding whether he’d acknowledge Obama as an American. Reporters speculated that the Trump campaign’s strategy behind the much-anticipated September 16 event was to put to rest scrutiny about Trump’s years-long birther enthusiasm and to “remove the last vestiges of an issue Clinton campaign could attack on.”

    The major cable news networks provided wall-to-wall coverage of Trump’s event, in which his seconds-long statement that “President Obama was born in the United States” came at the very end of a lengthy campaign event featuring military members endorsing Trump, and it included the false claims that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton started the birther conspiracy and that he ended it. Immediately after the statement, anchors on CNN and MSNBC called the candidate out for manipulating the press and for pushing falsehoods. On CNN, Ashleigh Banfield slammed the stunt and excoriated Trump’s “birther crap.” John King on At This Hour with Berman and Bolduan acknowledged the media “got played,” debunked Trump’s false accusation against Clinton, and condemned Trump for the “four or five years of leading a fraudulent, reckless campaign against the legitimacy of the United States president.” MSNBC used an on-screen graphic to single out Trump’s lie that Clinton started the birther movement, and during The Place for Politics, host Peter Alexander pointed out that Trump continued to give oxygen to birtherism even after President Obama released his birth certificate, saying “it’s not like he put this thing to rest” in 2011.

    In contrast, Fox News dove head first into the trap set by the Trump campaign. Happening Now host Jenna Lee declared Trump gave “the media what everyone was waiting for, his definitive comments about the quote, unquote ‘birther issue.’” Lee’s co-host Gregg Jarrett commended Trump for being “very precise, and direct and disciplined.” Fox guest Glenn Hall, a Wall Street Journal editor who set the stage before the event by praising Trump for “pivoting” away from birtherism, added that Trump “handled that pretty well.”

    Later, an Outnumbered on-screen graphic drew false equivalences claiming that Trump and Clinton were “blam[ing] each other” on the matter. Co-host Melissa Francis opined “nobody cares about these issues” and raved that Trump’s stunt was “political media genius,” while co-host Harris Faulkner dismissed the racist nature of birtherism by questioning “why is it racist” to question legitimacy “with Barack Obama and not with Ted Cruz?”:

    And on Shepard Smith Reporting, Chris Wallace, host of Fox News Sunday who was tapped to moderate the third presidential debate, said that unlike with some of his other outrageous incidents, “This one, in less than 24 hours, he cut it off.” Wallace’s determination that Trump’s statement shut the door on the birther issue flatly omitted any mention of Trump’s years of leading the charge in promoting such conspiracy theories.

    By declaring that Trump can put years of birtherism to rest by just saying he believes Obama is American, Fox News comes full circle. The network enthusiastically echoed Trump’s years-long, racist crusade to raise doubts about President Obama’s legitimacy, and provided Trump with a friendly platform to promote his birther beliefs. The press cannot allow the Trump campaign to play revisionist history with its candidate’s embrace of birtherism despite his intentions to put it behind him before the presidential debates.

  • Another Reason Chris Wallace Isn’t Fit For The Debate Stage

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    On Wednesday, Donald Trump continued to stonewall reporters and voters interested in learning more about his medical history. Adhering to his penchant for secrecy, Trump ignored the long-running protocol for presidential nominees to provide voters with a medical background and professional assurance about their health.

    Trump tried to dance around that disclosure norm by appearing at a taping of Dr. Oz to release some medical information to the daytime television host. (“From an investigative reporter's perspective, we continue to be played by the Trump campaign,” noted CNN’s Drew Griffin yesterday.)

    Watching the spectacle unfold on Wednesday, amidst widespread speculation over what happened at the taping and as the Trump’s campaign sent conflicting signals about what would exactly be revealed during the Thursday airing of the Dr. Oz episode and how many documents would be released, Fox News’ Chris Wallace announced that Trump had seized the transparency initiative over Hillary Clinton. 

    Wallace touted how Trump was “disclosing medical records on Dr. Oz” and “being transparent.” In fact, “At this point, the health transparency gap now works in Trump's favor because of the Dr. Oz incident,” the Fox News Sunday host insisted.

    But none of that was accurate. The Trump campaign likely wanted to project the image it was “disclosing medical records on Dr. Oz” and “being transparent.” But that wasn’t the case on Wednesday. In fact, on Wednesday Trump was still refusing to publicly release any relevant medical information, which meant he clearly trailed the “transparency gap” as compared to Clinton. 

    The day after Wallace’s comments, Trump’s campaign did release a three-paragraph letter from the candidate’s doctor who briefly summarized Trump's health.

    Last December, Trump previously released a letter from the same doctor. But that missive was widely ridiculed as being nearly worthless in terms of pertinent information. And Trump’s doctor later conceded he had spent just five minutes writing the note, which he did as a limousine that the Trump campaign had sent over to retrieve the document idled outside.

    So at the time of Wallace’s Trump defense on Wednesday, the only information the candidate had disclosed was a rather nutty note from his doctor. Yet Wallace insisted Trump was winning the “transparency” battle with Clinton.

    Normally, Wallace’s misleading commentary might just be written off as more Fox News spin for Trump. The problem is, Wallace isn’t just any talking head. He’s been selected to be the sole moderator of the final presidential debate on October 19 in Las Vegas. (Wallace represents the first Fox anchor ever selected to host a general election presidential debate.)

    The fact that Wallace pitched in to help the Trump campaign this week by suggesting Trump had earned the transparency advantage raises additional doubts about his moderating duties. What if during the debate Wallace turns to Clinton and asks her why she hasn’t been as “transparent” as Trump in releasing medical information? What if Wallace introduces other anti-Clinton falsehoods like that while he’s moderating?

    Keep in mind, Wallace has already stated publicly that he won’t fact-check candidates during the debate. (“It’s not my role.”) The odd concession raised deep concerns, especially since Trump has rewritten the rules for political prevarications this cycle.

    Also troubling was the fact that for two decades Wallace worked for Fox News chief Roger Ailes, who left the channel in disgrace amidst allegations of sexual harassment, and who is now reportedly advising Trump for his debate preparation. Said Wallace of Ailes this summer, “Roger Ailes is the best boss I’ve had in almost a half a century in journalism. I admired him tremendously professionally, and loved him personally.”

    So Wallace has been actively spinning for Trump regarding “transparency,” won’t fact-check Trump at the debate, and has been close friends with Trump’s debate adviser.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    CNN recently reported that in choosing the four debate moderators this election season, “The last thing the [Debate] Commission wants is for the moderator to become part of the story about a debate.”

    By selecting Wallace, the Commission has failed.

  • Report: According To Network Executives, Debate Moderator Choices Meant To “Appease” Trump

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Politico reported that according to network news executives, presidential debate moderators Chris Wallace of Fox News and Lester Holt of NBC were chosen with the intention of keeping Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump comfortable and to ensure he shows up.

    Trump has repeatedly complained that the media is biased against him, even as the coverage of his scandals is minimized under the pretense of false balance. Trump’s complaints also reportedly made the commission struggle to select moderators. The moderator choices, which excluded Latino journalists but included Fox’s Wallace despite his glaring conflict of interest, seem to indicate Trump successfully influenced the debate commission. Wallace has publicly acknowledged he has no intention of becoming “a truth squad” for the candidates during the debates and has in the past twice enabled Trump to lie about his stance on the Iraq war during live interviews on Fox.

    A September 12 Politico article reported that media executives share the belief that the debate commission took Trump’s feelings into consideration in the choice of NBC’s Lester Holt “who Trump is comfortable with” and believe Wallace “was tapped to moderate the third and final debate to lessen the likelihood that Trump skips it.” As reported by Politico:

    Indeed, the media industry as a whole has become addicted to the television ratings and higher click-rates generated by Trump. And among media executives, the treatment of Trump by some networks and reporters is directly related to the leverage he holds, and he knows it.

    “[Trump] is personally more involved in the process than most candidates are or at least admit to be,” said one network news executive, granted anonymity to speak privately. “His team is very keen on making sure he’s comfortable with who the interviewer is and the placement of the news cycle. He understands news very well. He’s more involved directly in booking than a typical candidate has been. They say yes a lot more, that’s not a surprise, a lot more than Hillary.”

    While that executive said Trump asks for specific anchors or moderators less than others, the GOP nominee is clear about which ones he prefers. It’s hard to envision Trump agreeing to last week’s NBC forum were Rachel Maddow or Chuck Todd asking the questions. And there is wide speculation among media executives that NBC’s Lester Holt, who Trump is comfortable with, was chosen to moderate the first debate with Clinton later this month in order to appease the GOP nominee. Similarly, some also believe that Fox News’ Chris Wallace was tapped to moderate the third and final debate to lessen the likelihood that Trump skips it.

    In February, CBS News president Les Moonves’ admission that Trump’s campaign “may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS” laid bare the motivation behind many networks non-stop Trump coverage and the imperative of keeping him reasonably happy.

  • Will Chris Wallace Let Trump’s Iraq War Lie Slide In The Presidential Debate?

    Flashback: Wallace Has Enabled The Lie Twice Before

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Fox News’ Chris Wallace has previously failed to fact-check Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s brazen lie that he opposed the Iraq War, raising further concerns about how Wallace will moderate the third and final presidential debate.

    Wallace has twice before let Trump lie about his opposition to the Iraq War -- a claim that has been proved false time and time again. On February 21, when Trump appeared on Wallace’s Fox News Sunday, Wallace let the candidate say he “was against” the Iraq War “at the beginning” while offering no pushback; and on March 13, Wallace again let Trump’s claim that he “was against the war in Iraq … I’m one that said don’t go in” go unchallenged.

    Wallace’s complicity in enabling Trump’s lie is troubling given that he has been tapped as moderator for the final debate between Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and that he has said it’s not his “job to be a truth squad” when moderating. Trump took the news that Wallace wouldn’t fact-check the candidates during the debates well, telling Larry King, “I can understand him saying that. … I think that the candidates should police themselves.”

    Wallace’s previous disregard for Trump’s recurrent lie is even more concerning given the conflict of interest tethered to Wallace’s role as a moderator. As Media Matters founder David Brock wrote to the Commission on Presidential Debates, former Fox CEO Roger Ailes’ position advising both Trump and Rupert Murdoch -- the head of Fox’s parent company and Wallace’s boss -- represents a “glaring conflict of interest” that infringes on the credibility of any Fox News moderator. Brock has asked the commission to reconsider Wallace as a moderator.

    Given NBC host Matt Lauer’s heavily criticized, fact-challenged moderation during a national security forum -- where he, too, let Trump lie about his previous Iraq War stance -- it’s crucial that the debate moderators stamp out Trump’s mendacity and ensure a fact-based debate.

  • Media Matters Founder David Brock Calls For Reconsideration Of Fox News’ Chris Wallace As Debate Moderator

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Media Matters founder David Brock is calling on the Commission on Presidential Debates to reconsider the eligibility of Fox News’ Chris Wallace as moderator of the October 19 presidential debate. Brock writes that former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes’ position advising both Rupert Murdoch -- the head of Fox’s parent company -- and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump represents a “glaring conflict of interest” that infringes on the credibility of any Fox News moderator.

    Read the full text of his letter to the commission’s co-chairs, as first reported by Politico:

    Mr. Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr.
    Mr. Michael D. McCurry
    Commission on Presidential Debates
    1200 New Hampshire Ave NW #445 Washington, DC 20036
     

    Dear Co-Chairmen Fahrenkopf and McCurry:

    I am writing to request that you reconsider the eligibility of Chris Wallace as a debate moderator as a result of​ startling new public facts. I urge you to consider these facts and remove Mr. Wallace as the moderator of the third and final presidential debate.

    I was concerned to read a September 8 CNN report noting that “in recent weeks, [Roger] Ailes has become one of the most influential voices in the room as [Donald] Trump prepares” for the first presidential debate. According to the CNN report, Ailes and Trump “met in person several times between June 2015 and June 2016” and since late July, Ailes “has taken on a much more active role in Trump’s campaign.”

    Earlier this week on Good Morning America, Trump’s campaign manager ducked a question about whether it is appropriate for Ailes to be advising Trump. Simply put, the answer is no. It is a glaring conflict of interest that Roger Ailes, who resigned from Fox News in July, simultaneously provides advice to Donald Trump while serving as a paid adviser to Fox News chief Rupert Murdoch—debate moderator Chris Wallace’s boss.

    Also troubling is Chris Wallace’s explicit pronouncement that he doesn't intend to press the candidates to be truthful during the debate he moderates. When Wallace's Fox News colleague Howard Kurtz asked what Wallace would do if either candidate made "assertions that you know to be untrue," Wallace asserted, "That's not my job. I do not believe it is my job to be a truth squad. It's up to the other person to catch them on that." Ailes and Trump may already be unduly influencing Wallace to favor Trump in the debate. The New York Times' James Poniewozik was correct when he noted that Wallace's stated fact-free approach to debate moderating helps Trump the most. The Times noted that "the fact-checking website PolitiFact has found far more false statements from Mr. Trump than from Mrs. Clinton."

    I am disappointed that an organization that prides itself on being non-partisan would make such a selection. I would respectfully ask that you reconsider your selection of Chris Wallace -- or any current Fox News employee -- as a presidential debate moderator until Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch cut ties with Roger Ailes.

    Sincerely,

    David Brock
    Founder, Media Matters for America
  • Fox’s Shepard Smith Rips Journalists Who Refuse To Fact-Check Trump, Days After Chris Wallace Says He Won’t “Truth Squad” Candidates In Debate

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox host Shepard Smith criticized the idea that some media figures refuse to fact-check Donald Trump’s lies, a statement that stands in contrast to his Fox colleague Chris Wallace who said that it isn’t his job to be a “truth squad” while moderating candidates during the presidential debates.

    During an interview about his selection as a debate moderator on September 4, Chris Wallace argued that “I do not believe it is my job to be a truth squad” on presidential candidates, “it’s up to the other person to catch them on that.”

    In a discussion of NBC anchor Matt Lauer’s performance as moderator of a September 7 presidential forum, Smith argued that the idea of the media refusing to fact-check lies told by candidates is a “dereliction of duty.” Smith added that the media hasn’t aggressively been fact-checking Trump out of fear “he’ll rip you to shreds”:

    SHEPARD SMITH (HOST): Did it seem to you anybody -- any of the three of them were ready for last night?

    JOHN BUSSEY: Yeah, it was a shaky -- it was a shaky business, and --

    SMITH: Critics are eviscerating --

    BUSSEY: Yes, that's right, and Matt Lauer is getting critiqued for not fact-checking Trump more in his comments. And I think what you did earlier in the broadcast is kind of a reflection of the need to continue to do that. Trump's comments that he was against the war --

    SMITH: When he says things that aren't true and the media does not call him out, that's derelict -- dereliction of duty.

    [...]

    BUSSEY: You will see with Gary Johnson, Clinton, and Trump, the media has to be -- continue to be very aggressive on the fact-checking.

    SMITH: And yet it has not been. It seems -- it's almost as if people are scared to fact check him, because we know the wrath that comes from him when you fact check. If you correct him using the facts, he'll rip you to shreds.

    BUSSEY: Well, I think that the media is getting better at this.

    SMITH: Well, it better get better.

  • La Opinión Highlights The Need For A Latino Presidential Debate Moderator

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In reporting on the moderators for the 2016 presidential debates, La Opinión pointed out that the selection for the “political show of the century” includes “zero Latinos” “despite immigrants and Mexicans in particular becoming a central theme of the campaign” and noted the ways a Latino moderator would have been “very positive” for both the Latino community and the debate.

    The September 7 article reported that “in the diverse panel of the five selected journalists there are women, an Asian[-American], an African-American … and zero Latinos” and highlighted the backlash this selection inspired among prominent Latinos in the media such as the president of Univision Randy Falco, who “sent a letter to the [Commission of Presidential Debates] indicating his ‘disappointment’ with the lack of Latinos.” The article highlighted Falco’s disapproval with the commission’s failure to take into account “demographic patterns and the important role that Latinos play in the economy and socially” and quoted others who underscored the significance of lifting up Latino journalists.

    This “disappointing” moderator selection comes after Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump launched his most recent attempt to shield himself from scrutiny by conditioning the moderator selection with unfounded predictions of bias. Trump has been critical of Latinos for possible bias, citing his promise to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border as a reason that could compromise the neutrality a judge of Hispanic heritage. Translated from the September 7 article in La Opinión:

    There are some who say that it is not a relevant criterion in the selection of moderators for the important presidential debates, but the truth is that in the diverse panel of the five selected journalists there are women, an Asian, an African-American … and zero Latinos.

    In a little more than two weeks, the world will watch for the first time the presidential candidates Donald Trump and  Hillary Clinton face off on the same stage in the first of three presidential debates that are promising to become the “political show of the century.”

    Nonetheless, and despite immigrants and Mexicans in particular becoming a central theme of the campaign, mainly that of Republican [presidential nominee] Trump, none of the debates will be moderated by a journalist of Latino origin.

    [...]

    By that calculation, there are two women, one African-American (Holt is part Jamaican), and one Asian[-American]. [There are] [z]ero Latinos or Mexican blood or from any other place in Latin America.

    The decision was not taken generously by the president of Univision Randy Falco who sent a letter to the commission indicating his “disappointment” with the lack of Latinos in the debate panels. Falco pointed out in the letter that “taking into account the demographic patterns and the important role that Latinos play in the economy and socially in this nation.”

    Falco accused the commission of “abdicating its responsibility to represent the largest and most influential communities in the country.”

    [...]

    Stephen Nuño, associate professor of political science at Northern Arizona University, said that the presidential debates are something “very symbolic and important” in the electoral contest. “I think the most disappointing part is that it seems like the representation of minorities and women is not taken into account as one of the parameters.”

    [...]

    During the multiple debates that took place in the primaries, there were few Latinos asking questions, like José Diaz Balart, who represented Telemundo in its sister channel NBC’s debate and a debate organized by a Spanish-language network, Univision, of the democratic candidates, but not of Republicans.

    [Jorge] Ramos, of Univision, recently said that there are many Latino journalists on television that could have done the honors besides him, including his colleague María Elena Salinas, Díaz Balart, of Telemundo, Tom Llamas y Cecilia Vega of ABC or María Hinojosa of NPR.

  • Matt Lauer’s Fact-Challenged Moderation Is A Cautionary Tale For Debate Moderators

    Blog ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY

    Matt Lauer’s widely panned moderation of the NBC News Commander-In-Chief Forum, where he failed to fact-check Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s recurrent lie about opposing the Iraq War, shows precisely why it is paramount that moderators for the upcoming presidential debates correct misinformation and hold the candidates to an equal standard of truth-telling.

    Lauer, who moderated the Commander-In Chief Forum hosted by NBC News and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) on September 7, let Trump lie twice that he “was totally against the war in Iraq.” Trump’s claim has been proved false time and time again, and because of the audacity of the lie, the media roundly castigated Lauer's slip.

    With the first presidential debate looming, Lauer’s performance is a cautionary tale to the debate moderators, who will give voters one of the last chances to judge the candidates on the substance and breadth of their policy proposals.

    Fox’s Chris Wallace, tapped as the moderator for the final debate, already outrageously conceded that he will not fact-check candidates’ lies, stating, “I do not believe it’s my job to be a truth squad.” With his concession, it’s imperative that the other moderators step up to the challenge of fact-checking candidates, because letting falsehoods go unchallenged is a disservice to voters and a strain on journalistic integrity.

    Challenging mendacity in the presidential debates is paramount for a number of reasons, first and foremost being that Trump’s entire campaign has been grounded in lies and conspiracy theories. PolitiFact found that 71 percent of Trump’s claims are either “mostly false,” “false,” or “pants on fire.” As Huffington Post senior media reporter Michael Calderone explained, failure to fact-check lies in the debates “leaves the viewing public with a ‘he said, she said’ situation when the journalist picked to be onstage could say, decisively, who is right.” This, in turn, enables misinformation -- an injustice to voters -- and normalizes this behavior -- a threat to democratic and journalistic processes. New York Times reporter Yamiche Alcindor unequivocally said that, moving forward, journalists and reporters have a duty to fact-check lies and inconsistencies:

    I think last night we saw Donald Trump say that he did not support the war in Iraq. Many people have fact-checked him and said that that's a false statement. BuzzFeed broke that big story saying here is him on Howard Stern saying that, that he does support the war. So I think being able to do that as journalists, we have to do that. Even if it's tenuous and we want to move on to the next question and we want to have multiple broad conversations, we have to stop and say, wait, you really need to answer this question.

    Another worry for debate moderators’ passivity in the face of lies is the growing concern that Trump is being “graded on a curve,” where so long as he doesn’t “vomit all over himself and [he gives] a decent” performance, he’ll succeed. Failing to fact-check Trump’s lies during a debate will feed into the growing media tendency to lower the bar for Trump compared to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

    As CNN’s John Berman said, “If the bar for Donald Trump is not embarrassing himself, what does that mean heading into the debates?”

    Given that Trump’s accusations of media bias have already seemingly influenced the debate moderator selections, Lauer’s performance will hopefully encourage Lester Holt, Martha Raddatz, Anderson Cooper, and Chris Wallace to strengthen their fact-checking skills and harden their resolve to ensure the presidential debates are grounded in truth and reality.