Wallace says rival 'in the tank' for Obama

Continuing Fox News’ war of words with MSNBC, “Fox News Sunday” anchor Chris Wallace accused its rival of being “in the tank” for Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, while further pressing the news channel’s case that the mainstream press exhibits a liberal bias.

“I think MSNBC’s coverage went so far over the line that it lost all credibility,” Wallace told reporters Monday at the Television Critics Assn. press tour.

Wallace accused MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann of inappropriately mixing anchor and opinion-making duties, and said Fox News drew a distinction between its reporters and opinion-minded hosts.

“There’s a reason why Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity won’t be anchoring the election night or the conventions,” he said during the sesh at the BevHilton hotel.

Although the session was far from contentious, Fox did receive several questions regarding the propriety and terms of former Bush administration official Karl Rove’s role as a Fox commentator given the ongoing dispute with Congress — he ignored a committee’s subpoena — and his unofficial relationships with advisors to John McCain’s campaign.

“I have not been personally subpoenaed,” explained Rove, before descending into arcane explanations of executive privilege.

After the session, John Moody, Fox News exec VP of editorial, addressed the kerfuffle over the channel’s morning show, “Fox & Friends,” which recently altered the images of two New York Times journos, reporter Jacques Steinberg and editor Steven Reddicliffe, and featured them on air as retaliation for a Times article that cited the ratings gains by Fox’s competitors.

“Our news programs are not permitted to do it,” Moody said of the photos, while characterizing “Fox & Friends” as an entertainment show with news. Without directly saying whether the doctored photos violated network policy, he said, “I wish they hadn’t done it.”

Before the panel, Fox News press reps handed out buttons offering “hugs and kittens” with playful young felines printed on them, making not-so-subtle light of a recent New York Times column that highlighted the channel’s sometimes contentious relationship with the press.

(Brian Lowry contributed to this report.)

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