“Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace said Thursday that President Donald Trump bore the “primary responsibility” for the interruptions during Tuesday’s debate.
Wallace moderated the first of three presidential debates between Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden — and within the first few moments on the stage, both candidates were trading barbs and talking over each other. (RELATED: ‘This Is Beneath Him’: The Post-Debate Push To Keep Biden From Squaring Off With Trump Again)
Chris Wallace has completely lost control of this debate.
— Steve Schmidt (@SteveSchmidtSES) September 30, 2020
Wallace joined fellow Fox News anchor Bill Hemmer to discuss the debate and what he thought in hindsight.
“Nice to see you still standing,” Hemmer joked as he introduced Wallace.
“I had just gotten over the PTSD and then you put me right back into it,” Wallace replied.
“Sorry about that … Let’s go over a couple things,” Hemmer said. “I know you and you have a plan. At what point did that plan blow up?”
“Here’s what happened. You know, we began the first segment on the Supreme Court. They each got their two minutes and they both obeyed in that particular case. Then Biden started to answer a question and the president started interrupting him,” Wallace said. “My initial reaction was, this is great … When the president started engaging with Biden, I thought we’re going to have a real debate here. It became clearer and clearer over time that this was something different.”
Wallace said it was apparent by then that Trump’s goal appeared to be to rattle Biden and throw him off. He cited a Fox News analysis that said Trump had interrupted either Biden’s answers (71 times) or Wallace’s questions (74 times) for “a total of 145 interruptions.” In contrast, Biden interrupted Trump 49 times and Wallace 18 times — a total of 67 interruptions, according to the analysis.
“He bears the primary responsibility for what happened on Tuesday night,” Wallace said, noting that 145 interruptions came out to more than one per minute throughout the 95-minute event.
Hemmer asked whether there was any point that Wallace had thought he could get the ship righted and return to substantive debate.
“When I’m doing ‘Fox News Sunday,’ my thought is when two people are talking you can’t hear either of them,” Wallace continued, saying that he had initially tried to steer them back to civil debate but had eventually had to stop everything and regroup.
“At a certain point, 45 minutes in, I called a halt to the debate for a moment and said, you know, this really isn’t serving America. Please stop the interruptions. The president said, ‘Well, why don’t you admonish him?’ and I said, ‘Because you’re doing a lot more of the interrupting, Mr. President'” Wallace said. “Biden was doing some, no question about it, but less than half as many times as the president.”