“Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace, a former anchor of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” has had a front-row seat to this year’s presidential campaign, co-moderating Fox News Channel’s recent series of Republican debates. He talks about the raucous tenor of the current season, and suggests that U.S. viewers still have a yen for serious news.
How do you get candidates to really answer your questions in this circus-like atmosphere?
Whether it’s a conventional candidate or Donald Trump, that’s always a challenge. In some sense, Trump has been easier. He tends to say what he’s thinking, and that’s what makes him such a fascinating candidate.
Have things have gotten out of hand in this campaign?
I don’t think things have gotten back on track. Trump is Trump, and he runs a campaign much more on personality than on issues. He is just different than anyone I’ve ever covered, and we are headed, more likely than not, to a contested convention. I look back to 1976, and I remember when Ford and Reagan ran. It was close and a little bit up in the air, but I think this has the potential to be much more wide open. You’ve got Ted Cruz, who most of the established politicians in Washington detest, but who they are now seeing as the vessel, albeit temporary, for them to stop Trump.
You recently interviewed President Obama on Fox News Sunday. How do you think it went?
I was pleased with it. He made some news when he said he was going to stick by his nomination of Merrick Garland … and not pull it [even] if Hillary Clinton became the president-elect. He also made some big news when he said he thought Hillary Clinton did nothing wrong in regard to her email [as Secretary of State] but that he wasn’t going to try to influence the investigation. I think we had an interesting discussion about terrorism. It’s tough to get any politician — but especially a president — off their talking points, but he made a surprising amount of news.
You’ve anchored two networks’ Sunday public-affairs shows. How do you think these programs will evolve for a millennial and Generation Z audience?
People have been predicting the demise of the Sunday shows for decades now. It’s like they say about economists: They predicted 12 of the last six recessions. There’s a place for Sunday shows, an important place. So many shows and dayparts in television have gotten somewhat dumbed down. They are more about celebrity news, soft news, but the Sunday talk shows are one of the last places where people come expecting and wanting a serious discussion with the biggest newsmakers of the moment. We’ve tried to pull stunts over the years. People aren’t interested, and they don’t like it. They want a serious, in-depth, in the weeds discussion of the issues that affect their lives.
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