Chris Wallace bid farewell to his FOX audience to jump over to CNN – or at least CNN+, the Networks digital streaming operation.
Wallace was not very popular with a segment of the FOX audience – best described as the Trump aficionados. Personally, I thought Wallace was okay – even though I did not always agree with his opinions and line of questioning.
I thought his low point was the moderating of the Trump/Biden debate. He seemed to abandon any semblance of his reputation for being an intellectual and competent journalist. His animosity toward Trump was in full view.
Wallace was considered a tough questioner – and he was. But I thought he was reasonably balanced in hitting the weak spots in his guests’ arguments in a balanced manner – with a slight lean to the left.
It is noteworthy that Wallace rebutted the slander that is leveled at FOX News by competitors driven by their ideological bias and professional jealousy. Those sniping at FOX tend to have ratings that are fractional of FOX – by far the number one network in cable news.
There was a time that Wallace was the premier anchor on FOX, but he has since surrendered that to a series of others – Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson.
It has also been reported that Wallace was getting weary of the hardline conservative personalities – especially Carlson. That should come as no surprise. Other contributors have broken ties with FOX – many singling out FOX’s primetime personality Tucker Carlson.
In an earlier commentary, I speculated on the changes we might see at CNN as its new owner, David Zaslav, puts his mark on the Network programming. I suggested that Zaslav might shift the political philosophic balance more to the right in order to pull CNN from the ratings cellar by taking on the cable news leader, FOX, rather than competing with MSNBC for an abysmal third place. Hiring Wallace away from FOX may be the first indication.
Trump supporters saw Wallace as a hardline lefty. At CNN, however, he will be to the right of the Network’s center of gravity that is found on the far left. We are still waiting to see who will pick up the spot left by Chris Cuomo – who managed to violate even the currently low standards of journalistic ethics of today’s Fourth Estate. And there is – for the moment – a question mark over the future of CNN’s Don Lemon who also used – or misused – the Network to assist in the defense of his pal Jussie Smollett — and has an underreported upcoming trial for sexual assault.
Wallace will not be in the center ring at CNN, however. He will not have a primetime show – or even a daytime show on the Network. He will have a daily show on CNN+, the digital steaming stepchild of the Network. He will be on five days a week, but it is unlikely that on any day, he will match the viewership he enjoyed at FOX.
In leaving FOX, Wallace said: “The bosses here at Fox promised me they would never interfere with a guest I booked or a question I asked, and they kept that promise. I have been free to report to the best of my ability, to cover the stories I think are important, to hold our country’s leaders to account.”
When reporting on the hiring of Wallace, CNN Media Critic Brian Stelter failed to quote the portion of Wallace’s statement that declared that FOX management did not pressure him in terms of guests and subjects.
The move is not likely to enhance Wallace’s public visibility. He may be following a long list of primetime media celebrates who stepped down from the higher perches – by choice or force. Folks like Bill O’Reilly, Brian Williams, Matt Lauer and now Chris Cuomo will never regain the reportorial power that they had at the peak of their careers.
I imagine as the dust settles on this bit of media news, the impact on FOX will be minimal – as will the benefit to CNN.
So, there ‘tis.