Her new MSNBC program, to be called “Deadline: White House,” debuts Tuesday at 4 p.m., which may take some viewers by surprise. MSNBC had not publicly unveiled the name of the show or its start date, though the NBCUniversal-owned news outlet had already informed cable and satellite operators, who have the show and its title listed in interactive on-screen programming guides.
The title “is meant to capture the urgency of covering this White House,” said Wallace during a phone interview Monday. “I think every White House has its own rhythm, but at 4 p.m., the day has started to take shape” in terms of what issues are getting most play in the media.
By launching Wallace in “Deadline” at 4 p.m., MSNBC is adding a new hour of political focus in a time slot it had been devoting to broader general-news coverage. As a result, the network may vie more directly with CNN, where Jake Tapper holds forth from Washington, D.C., with “The Lead” at 4 p.m., and will offer something quite different from Fox News Channel, which regularly airs Neil Cavuto’s business-focused program at that time.
Wallace said she and producers intend to rely on a group of regular contributors, hopefully getting reporters on the beat to reveal what interests them the most as their deadlines loom. But she will also welcome a wide array of experts, and work closely with Steve Kornacki, the MSNBC veteran who will appear regularly on her program. “We will put around the table the people who make the most sense on any given day,” she said. “I’m simply the shepherd of the conversation.”
Wallace’s self-effacing humor belies her deep experience in this milieu. She may be better known for her time as the White House communications director during George W. Bush’s presidency and his 2004 campaign. She was also a senior advisor to Senator John McCain’s bid for the presidency. She did a stint at CBS as a Republican political contributor, followed by a quick stint on ABC’s “The View,” where, Wallace said, “I got canned for not being Republican enough” opposite the rest of the program’s panelists.
Her past, she said, gives her perspective others in her position may not possess. “One of the things you have when you have been on the inside is a really good B.S. radar,” she said. “I know when I’m being spun by White House officials.”
She may also be spinning herself – albeit in different fashion. Despite anchoring a five-days-a-week cable-news program, Wallace will retain her duties as the fill-in host for Brian Williams “The 11th Hour,” which airs late night on MSNBC and is expected to contribute more special reports to NBC’s “Today.” “They have a strategic approach here – to simply keep you too busy working to think about it,” she joked.
Former associates may also appear on “Deadline,” Wallace suggested, and the program will remain “nimble” so producers could scramble their plans to cover the latest developments. If viewers want to know more, they will simply have to watch, she said. “I’m a secret-keeping Republican.”