Nobody should have been surprised by Chris Wallace's debate performance

Despite the fulsome praise Fox News heaped upon him promoting its debate coverage, conservatives had few illusions about Chris Wallace going into the presidential debate.  Yet even those low expectations were disappointed by the dreadful disgrace of his performance.

It was entirely predictable.  Consider this article from nine years ago when the GOP presidential field was in its early stages of winnowing: "Debate's Biggest Loser? Chris Wallace and Fox."

C. Edmund Wright wrote:

  • They [GOP Primary voters] are not served by an arrogant Chris Wallace asking a question in August based on a question Wallace himself asked in May.
  • … there likely are not legions of Republican primary voter in the country who care a whit what Chris Wallace thinks.
  • Newt Gingrich scored huge points when he humiliated Wallace over the "gotcha" questions.  Whether or not Gingrich was just frustrated or whether he was prescient enough to know and understand that our misguided media own much of the blame for the mass elections of incompetents is unclear.

The fact remains that he nailed an absolute hot button with frustrated voters when he shamed Wallace. 

I'll give Wallace credit: he's consistent.

Two years go, Peter Barry Chowka reported on the internal tumult at Fox News over Wallace and his then–FNC colleague, Shepard Smith:

On October 20, 2017, Chris Wallace had apparently had enough of FNC's prime-time opinion show hosts.  As CNN reported, "Fox News host Chris Wallace slams network colleagues for attacks on press."  Wallace's unnamed but obvious target was Sean Hannity.

Fox News host Chris Wallace leveled sharp criticism in an article published Thursday against some of his colleagues who have echoed President Trump and used their perch at the network to attack the media as "fake news[.]" ...

"I don't like them bashing the media, because oftentimes what they're bashing is stuff that we on the news side are doing," he added.  "I don't think they recognize that they have a role at Fox News and we have a role at Fox News.  I don't know what's in their head.  I just think it's bad form."

The comments from Wallace, who hosts "Fox News Sunday" and is widely considered to be one of the main faces of the Fox News' hard news division, represent perhaps the most searing criticism the network's opinion division has faced in recent memory from a colleague.  A Fox News spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Another preview of what was soon to come

Exactly six weeks ago, a reliable source familiar with the thinking of two of FNC's prime-time hosts offered the following analysis while insisting on anonymity:

Shep [Smith] and [Chris] Wallace have taken pot shots at [Fox News] opinion programming.  It's a never ending source of laughter at how [expletive deleted] their ratings are and how they are "pretend journalists" who seem incapable of ever breaking any real news.

The [prime time] opinion programming side of Fox is openly mocked in the halls of Fox by what they [the opinion programming hosts and staff] call "the so-called news division."

On February 7, a source with knowledge of the goings-on at the highest levels of Fox News described the thinking of at least two of Fox News's prime-time hosts and their staffs:

The horrendous ratings of Chris Wallace and Shep Smith [Smith's audience is about 50% of what the prime-time hosts pull in] show how out of touch they are with the Fox audience, and the general consensus is that both Shep and Chris should just pack up and go to work for MSNBC or CNN because the Fox audience hates their biased views.

One need only to look at Fox News election night [coverage in] 2016.  They [Smith and Wallace] were absolutely and visibly stunned by Donald Trump's victory.

A simmering cold war goes hot

In the increasingly polarized and volatile political climate of 2018, it didn't take long for these adversaries at Fox News to take their private war public – to lash out at each other and make their escalating disagreements clear for all to see.

Photo credit: YouTube screen grab (cropped).

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