Why People Are Furious About Chris Wallace's Debate Performance

Veteran journalist and Fox News reporter Chris Wallace returned on Sept. 29, 2020, to moderate his second presidential debate ever at the first showdown between Republican incumbent Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden. At first, Wallace was a welcomed choice, as many praised him for having a no-nonsense, sharp approach when moderating the final debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton back in 2016. In fact, his performance got rewarded with positive reviews from both sides of the political spectrum.

What's more? Wallace hails from a family of respected journalists (he is the son of 60 Minutes investigative reporter, Mike Wallace, and the stepson of former CBS News president, Bill Leonard, as USA Today noted), so there's a legacy backing up his resume and proven skills.

So it is arguably surprising, then, that the audience appeared to have flipped on Wallace during the first presidential debate of 2020, which took place in Cleveland, Ohio. Spectators on both political sides have tweeted up a storm about their grievances with Wallace's moderation this time around. Let's dig into why people are furious about Chris Wallace's debate performance.

Chris Wallace got slammed for losing control

Ahead of the first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden, Chris Wallace told Fox News his job as a moderator is "to be as invisible as possible," per The New York Times. However, audiences from both political parties appear to think he took that stance too far. "So far Wallace is not winning as moderator. Occasional valiant effort but not effective," former NBC News executive, Mark Lukasiewicz, tweeted. He later added that Wallace "completely lost control." Viral conservative Kaitlin Bennett agreed, tweeting, "Chris Wallace lost that debate."

Although Wallace got commended for being able to keep control of the microphone during the last presidential election, he clearly had a hard time taking the reins this year. He argued with Trump many times, pleading with the president to let him ask a question before cutting in. However, Trump did not seem to back down. "I guess I'm debating you, not him (Biden), but that's OK, I'm not surprised," Trump complained, according to the NYT.

Wallace did not back down so easily, taking a brief pause during the debate to address Trump directly. "The country would be better served if we allowed both people to speak with fewer interruptions. I'm appealing to you, sir, to do it," he requested. 

Things got ugly between the two candidates

In Chris Wallace's defense, the Cleveland, Ohio debate wasn't an easy one to moderate, as both Joe Biden and Donald Trump relentlessly traded barbs over their policies on climate change, law enforcement, white supremacists, and more. At some points, it started to sound more like a high school cafeteria fight than a nationally televised debate between politicians vying for the highest office in the land.

For example, while discussing healthcare policy, Biden lost his patience with the standing president and said, "Will you shut up, man?" in an attempt to get a word in. In another heated moment, he added, "Folks, do you have any idea what this clown's doing? I tell you what, he is not for anybody needing healthcare."

The president wasn't any kinder. While defending his actions during the coronavirus pandemic, Trump said of Biden, "We've done a great job. But I tell you, Joe, you could never have done the job we've done. You don't have it in your blood." The president added, "There's nothing smart about you, Joe," while the Democratic candidate attempted to point out what he thinks are mistakes made by the administration.

Will the next moderator do a better job?

Even after Chris Wallace managed to get a couple of words in while Joe Biden and Donald Trump debated each other, pleading with Trump directly to allow "both people to speak with fewer interruptions," the incumbent president didn't take the feedback well. He responded to say that Biden was also interrupting: "And him, too." Wallace responded, "Well, frankly you've been doing more interrupting."

Although many people felt that Wallace didn't do a good job in wrangling the candidates to calm down or let the other speak, it wasn't an easy job in the first place. All we have to say is better luck to the next moderator on October 15, 2020. Per The New York Times, Steve Scully, political editor at C-SPAN, is scheduled to moderate a "town-hall-style event with undecided voters from South Florida."

Hopefully, Scully will will have some better ideas about how to get the two candidates to stop talking over each other and actually debate.