Chris Wallace Laments Debate That Trump Hijacked

CLEVELAND, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 29: Debate moderator and Fox News anchor Chris Wallace directs the first presidential debate between U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden at the Health... CLEVELAND, OHIO - SEPTEMBER 29: Debate moderator and Fox News anchor Chris Wallace directs the first presidential debate between U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden at the Health Education Campus of Case Western Reserve University on September 29, 2020 in Cleveland, Ohio. This is the first of three planned debates between the two candidates in the lead up to the election on November 3. (Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images) MORE LESS
September 30, 2020 5:17 p.m.

Fox News anchor Chris Wallace has regrets about the chaos that ensued as President Trump went off the rails during his first presidential debate against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Tuesday night.

Throughout the debate, moderator Wallace struggled to keep the debate under control during Trump’s constant interruptions and interjections, prompting the media to swiftly rebuke the Trump train wreck that occurred.

In a phone interview with the New York Times, Wallace appeared defeated by the debate debacle as he lamented that he’s “just sad with the way last night turned out.” It was “a terrible missed opportunity,” he said.

“I never dreamt that it would go off the tracks the way it did,” Wallace said, before acknowledging that he should’ve recognized sooner that the President wouldn’t comply with debate rules.

“I’ve read some of the reviews, I know people think, Well, gee, I didn’t jump in soon enough,” Wallace told the Times, which noted that the Fox News anchor’s voice had some hoarseness from moderating the chaotic debate the night before. “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.”

After Wallace told the Times that he had never experienced an event like that over his long career, the debate moderator said that he thought it was “great” when Trump initially engaged directly with Biden, but that he became increasingly concerned as the President didn’t signal that he’d tone his aggressive antics down.

“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,” Wallace said.

Wallace recounted feeling “desperation” when he put the debate temporarily on hold to tell both Trump and Biden that “the country would be better served if we allowed both people to speak with fewer interruptions.”

However, when bluntly asked whether the President was responsible for the debate going off the rails, Wallace replied “well, he certainly didn’t help” but declined to elaborate further.

Wallace also told the Times that he is reluctant towards the idea that moderators being given the authority to mute candidates’ microphones.

“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, arguing that cutting the audio feed of a presidential candidate would be a gravely consequential move given how both Trump and Biden have tens of millions of supporters.

For moderators of upcoming debates, Wallace suggested they try to learn from his mishaps.

“If either man goes down this road, I hope you’ll be quicker to realize what’s going on than I was. I didn’t have that advance warning.”

Earlier Wednesday, the Commission on Presidential Debates said that it’s considering changes to the structure of the remaining two presidential debates after the first debate “made clear that the additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues.”

Shortly after the CPD released its statement, Trump rehashed his animus toward Wallace and Biden in a tweet.

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