Who Is Debate Moderator Chris Wallace? What To Know

Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo.
The final debate is tomorrow night — the last and final chance for the candidates to convince you to give them your vote. The second one, on October 9, was notable as much for the moderators’ behavior as the candidates’, with Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz getting accolades (and criticism) for their handling of the debate. For the final face-off, moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News might feel that the spotlight will be as much on him as on the presidential candidates.
So, who is Chris Wallace? Here’s what you need to know about the final moderator, pre-debate.

He’s known for a tough style of interviewing, giving some viewers high hopes for his ability to hold the candidates accountable.

Wallace has a reputation for being an exacting interviewer for both liberals and conservatives. He has said that he thinks the media has gone too easy on Donald Trump, allowing him to “play by different rules,” according to The Wrap. He also grilled Hillary Clinton on Benghazi and her email scandal in an interview in late July. If the candidates are expecting to dodge questions they don’t want to discuss, they might have to think again.

But he thinks that it’s not the moderator’s job to fact-check the debate.

“I do not believe it is my job to be a truth squad,” he said in a September 4 interview with Fox News’ Howard Kurtz. “It’s up to the other person to catch them on that… I want it to be about them.” He said that he sees himself as a “conduit” so that the candidates get equal time to talk. "If it succeeds when it's over, people will say, 'You did a great job. I don't even remember you ever even being on the stage,'" he said.

Wallace is the first Fox News journalist to moderate a presidential debate.

“I think that’s quite a statement for our news organization,” he said after the pick was announced, according to the L.A. Times. However, it’s not his first time dealing with presidential candidates. Besides grilling numerous candidates — including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama — in his time on Fox News Sunday, he also has plenty of experience moderating primary debates. Wallace was one of the three moderators for the first Republican primary debate, when Trump began his controversial feud with Megyn Kelly after she challenged him about his comments on women. Though Wallace didn’t draw as much attention as his colleagues, he might have some insight on how to handle at least one of the candidates.

There are accusations of a conflict of interest.

Wallace's former boss at Fox News, Roger Ailes, who left the network in July after being publicly accused of sexual harassment, has since become an adviser to Donald Trump. Before the announcement of Wallace as a moderator, The New York Times speculated that Ailes' involvement and knowledge of the network and its approach to debates could give Trump an edge should a Fox journalist be selected as a moderator. In early September, David Brock, the founder of left-wing media watchdog group Media Matters for America, published an open letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates, calling on the organization to remove Wallace as moderator. "It is a glaring conflict of interest that Roger Ailes, who resigned from Fox News in July, simultaneously provides advice to Donald Trump while serving as a paid adviser to Fox News chief Rupert Murdoch — debate moderator Chris Wallace’s boss," Brock wrote. After his departure from Fox News, Ailes remains available to Murdoch, who took over leadership of the network himself in the role of interim advisor. He cannot be directly involved with Fox News or 21st Century Fox, according to The New York Times.
A Fox News spokesperson told The Huffington Post prior to the debate that Ailes retains “zero influence” on the network’s news coverage. Co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates Frank Fahrenkopf Jr. also told the website that he supported Wallace, saying that he had “complete confidence” in the moderator. Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect public statements from Fox News and a representative of the Commission on Presidential Debates.

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