Chris Wallace earned near universal praise for his interview with President Trump. But was he just doing a journalist’s job?

Fox News’ Wallace was praised for his willingness to real-time fact-check and push back against some of Trump’s wrong and ridiculous claims.

July 21, 2020

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A day after his combative interview with President Donald Trump, Fox News’ Chris Wallace was getting almost universal praise for his willingness to real-time fact-check and push back against some of Trump’s wrong and ridiculous claims.

Wallace was so strong that many — such as the panelists on ABC’s “The View” — predict you will likely never see Trump sit down with Wallace again. “The View’s” Meghan McCain said, “I think it’s gonna be Sean Hannity from here on out for him.”

Actually, McCain’s comments on Twitter right after the interview were even harsher (and R-rated). McCain tweeted, “Yowza, Chris Wallace…! Now that is how you interview Trump ladies and gentleman. Chris is one of the best ever for a reason, but (expletive), I was waiting for the Mortal Combat narrator to yell ‘finish him’ by the end…. Who on Trump’s comms team prepped him for this?!?”

There was some thought that Wallace merely conducted the kind of interview that journalists routinely used to hold with presidents and leaders — challenging and imposing. And, perhaps, Wallace was given effusive praise because many of his Fox News colleagues would not have confronted Trump like that.

In her Monday column, The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan said Wallace’s interview was nothing more than a fig leaf for Fox News. Sullivan wrote the interview was “something the network’s brass and public relations staff can point to in order to counter the criticism that Fox News is nothing but a cheerleader for the president. Call it the ‘but Chris Wallace!’ syndrome. Sunday may have been a spotlight for Wallace’s chops, but Monday morning things were back to their democracy-damaging normal at the nation’s most popular cable network.”

Sullivan pointed out Tucker Carlson returned to the air Monday and that the morning show, “Fox & Friends,” complimented Wallace, but Sullivan wrote, “let the president have his way twisting the facts.”

Sullivan added, “Business as usual, in other words.”

Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer. For the latest media news and analysis, delivered free to your inbox each and every weekday morning, sign up for his Poynter Report newsletter.