Despite saying he wasn’t going to do any “truth-squadding” at the final presidential debate, Chris Wallace was a vocal, dogged and above all fair moderator in Wednesday’s contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
The “Fox News Sunday” host pressed Trump to take a position on Roe v. Wade. He fact-checked Clinton when she claimed she never called for “open borders.” He even insisted he would not be a “potted plant” before asking Trump a series of follow-ups regarding his stance on Russian election meddling.
On top of that, he was strong-willed with the candidates as they each went over their allotted time and handled a sometimes boisterous crowd when things got out of hand. At every turn, he asserted himself as a surrogate for the American public, including at the conclusion when he urged viewers to vote.
How good was his performance? Even before the debate concluded Wednesday, praise for Wallace began rolling in on Twitter from all sides: left, right and center.
Looks like Chris Wallace won't be the anchor on Trump TV.
— David Boardman (@dlboardman) October 20, 2016
— Gillian Tett (@gilliantett) October 20, 2016
— Stephen Hayes (@stephenfhayes) October 20, 2016
Tonight was a great night for Chris Wallace. He was outstanding — and I bet some new people will tune into @FoxNewsSunday.
— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) October 20, 2016
I think it's clear who won that debate: Chris Wallace #debatenight
— Baratunde (@baratunde) October 20, 2016
The most impressive thing about Chris Wallace's moderating is that nobody was screaming in my twitter feed about how awful he was
— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) October 20, 2016
With the caveat that debates don’t matter unless there’s a big moment:
Chris Wallace: A+++
Donald Trump: B+
Hillary Clinton: B
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) October 20, 2016
He works for Fox but Chris Wallace deserves exceptional praise. He was tough and he was right down the middle fair. His Dad would be proud.
— Howard Dean (@GovHowardDean) October 20, 2016
Chris Wallace was so much better than any other moderator it’s shocking.
— Michael Salfino (@MichaelSalfino) October 20, 2016
Cheers to Chris Wallace on a job well done tonight. #Debate
— Dianne Gallagher (@DianneG) October 20, 2016
Chris Wallace is the first Fox News anchor to moderate a presidential debate and hands down this year’s best
— Jon Passantino (@passantino) October 20, 2016
Moderating a debate is notoriously hard. Appearing to interrupt one candidate more than another or dispensing fact checks disproportionally could spur accusations of favoritism. With employers, two candidates and the American people to please, the job also represents a colossal balancing act that could be upended by a single errant fact-check or ill-timed interruption.
But Wallace succeeded, in part because he kept his cool. He followed up on controversial lines of inquiry and occasionally asked candidates about their blatant falsehoods.
Wallace’s turn behind the moderator’s desk is sure to buoy spirits at Fox News, which has of late weathered the departure of its chairman and whispers that marquee host Megyn Kelly is leaving her options open for a possible exit.