Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace spoke to Tufts community on journalism issues at an event broadcast live on Thursday.
The event, “Speaking Up and Speaking Out: Politics, Power, and Freedom of the Press”, was organized by the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life. The event was on 14th Annual Edward R. Murrow Forum on Journalism Matters and the third event in the Tisch College Distinguished Speakers Series this semester.
Tisch College Dean Alan Solomont delivered the opening speech and presented Wallace describing his experience in conducting high-level interviews, moderating debates and covering national political stories, as well as his beginnings in journalism.
“Wallace began his career in the news industry as a teenager, when he worked as Walter Cronkite’s assistant at the 1964 Republican National Convention,” said Solomont.
Salomont introduced President and CEO of WNET Neal Shapiro (A’80) to moderate the event.
Shapiro started by asking Wallace on the unique relationship between the old President Donald Trump and the press.
Wallace reflected on his interviews with Asset and the criticisms he received from him on Twitter.
“The first time I received a named tweet from Trump, as president, it caught my attention because I had never been attacked in this personal way in a tweet by the President of the United States,” he said. “But pretty quickly… it kind of washes your back; if not, you are in the wrong business.
The discussion then turned to the 2020 presidential debate between Asset and President Joe Biden this Moderate Wallace in September. Wallace explained his approach to debate moderation and the differences between conducting an interview and moderating a debate.
“A debate is not an interview, and one of the things I’m very aware of… is that it’s not about you, it’s about the two of them. he said. “My feeling about the debates and moderation was that it’s kind of like being the referee in a championship prize fight. By the end of the fight people say it was a hell of a fight… so you did a great job as a moderator. ”
Wallace turned the riot conversation to the United States Capitol on January 6 and described his initial reaction to the riots and media coverage of the event.
“It was one of the most amazing live events I have ever covered”, he said. “I was aware, moreover I asked it in the presidential debate, on right-wing extremism, [but] Was I aware or sensitive to the fact that he was as tall, as virulent and as mobilized as he turned out to be on January 6th? No.”
Shapiro then asked Wallace about the growing number of reporters expressing their views while covering news stories. In response, Wallace explained the different roles of direct news and opinion, and how he thinks the two should stay separate.
“I distinguish between news and opinions” he said. “I actually think Fox does a pretty good job of distinguishing between the two.”
He added that he hopes Fox News viewers understand the difference between news and opinion.
“I hope people distinguish between what Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity do and what I do”, Wallace said. “What worries me the most is when [opinion] seeps or floods into what I consider to be what should be basic media coverage. ”
Wallace also explained how important it is for the media to report factual and unbiased coverage of stories, especially amid the threat of fake news.
“I am very opposed to what Donald Trump did by trying to delegitimize the media”, he said. “In February 2017, when he posted this tweet that said fake media, then bracketed CBS, ABC, NBC, Washington Post, New York Times are the enemy of the people, I was horrified by this. “
However, Wallace said he felt Trump’s actions and attacks made his heterosexual media colleagues feel they could push back and share their opinions, which Wallace disagreed with.
“I think it was a mistake that we thought that [Trump’s] attacks on the media have allowed heterosexual news media to attack and be defenders ”, he said. “My reaction was ‘No, we have to play straight and we have to stay in our lane.'”
He spoke again about the growing prejudices of the media and how they influence the opinions of viewers.
“The most successful business model now is to take sides”, Wallace said. He acknowledged that Fox News is participating in this, but said the trend in the media was “terribly sad.
“People want to watch or read the media, the news platform, that agrees with them and that gives weight to what they already believe,” Wallace said.