Chris Wallace says he found Fox News’ questioning of the truth 'unsustainable'
Veteran newsman Chris Wallace counts himself among the casualties of Fox News’ coverage of the Jan. 6 insurrection and the conspiracy-mongering leading up to the attack on the Capitol.
With his CNN debut slated for Tuesday, Wallace told The New York Times he ditched Fox News in December – his employer of 18 years – because it had become detached from reality.
“I’m fine with opinion: conservative opinion, liberal opinion,” he said. “But when people start to question the truth – Who won the 2020 election? Was Jan. 6 an insurrection? – I found that unsustainable.”
After four years of lavishing praise on former President Donald Trump, Fox News found itself suddenly unpopular with many viewers after the network correctly called the hotly contested state of Arizona in favor of President Joe Biden on Election Night 2020.
What followed was coverage spreading baseless allegations that corrupted voting machines may have been the reason for Biden’s win. Those reports now have Fox News entangled in billion-dollar lawsuits with the voting technology companies blamed for Trump’s loss.
The network’s star performer, prime-time host Tucker Carlson, was given considerable latitude to push wild conspiracy theories meant to paint the Jan. 6 attack on the nation’s Capitol as a ruse to entrap “patriots” hoping to overturn election results. That “incoherent conspiracy-mongering” led to longtime Fox contributors Jonah Goldberg and Stephen Hayes to pen a public resignation announcing their disgust in November.
“I just no longer felt comfortable with the programming at Fox,” Wallace said.
According to The Times, Wallace demurred when asked about pro-Vladimir Putin and anti-Ukraine messaging from Fox News personalities, including Carlson, being used to justify Russia’s attack on its neighbor on state-run Russian television.
“One of the reasons that I left Fox was because I wanted to put all of that behind me,” he said.
The 74-year-old journalist told the paper he spent a lot of 2021 looking for a new gig before teaming up with CNN, where his “Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace?” streaming series will run on CNN+.
Wallace, long considered a moderate working for a right-wing cable channel, said he used to feel good about his involvement with Fox News and found the environment there conducive to his work as a journalist.
“Since November of 2020, that just became unsustainable,” he said. “Increasingly unsustainable as time went on.”
He admits that critics who thought he should have left Fox News before he did might not be wrong to say, “‘Gee, you were a slow learner, Chris.’”
Veteran journalist Catherine Herridge announced in October 2019 that she was leaving Fox News for CBS News “where facts and storytelling will always matter.”
Earlier that month, Fox News founding correspondent Shepard Smith, now at NBC News, said he was leaving the network with the “hope that the facts will win the day – that the truth will always matter.”
Wallace admits that his new home at CNN hasn’t been without its troubles.
The network canned host Chris Cuomo in December amid an inquiry that found he’d aided his brother, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who continues to deny sexual misconduct claims by multiple women. Chris was also accused of sexual misconduct by two women – one of which he denies. Last month, CNN boss Jeff Zucker resigned after it was revealed he was in a consensual relationship with a female colleague.
“It’s not ideal,” Wallace said of the events preceding his CNN arrival.
In his new gig, Wallace plans to spend time with guests like actor William Shatner and former Disney boss Bob Iger, where it’s unlikely topics like Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan will be on the agenda.
“I wanted to get out of politics,” he said.
Wallace told The Times he likes the idea of doing a streaming program because it doesn’t adhere to the strict time restraints of a television show. Before moving to Fox News, The Chicago native, who is a Harvard grad, chalked up nearly 30 years of experience between ABC News and NBC News.