Friday, January 27, 2012

Fox Moderator Chris Wallace: Debates Are "Stupid," Shun Policy Issues

by Eric Hananoki/Media Matters

Though Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace has moderated four Republican debates, that doesn't mean he has a very high opinion of their value to voters. During an interview on today's The Mike Gallagher Show, Wallace denounced the nineteen debates as "stupid" and unnecessary.    
"Let's really get serious. It is ridiculous how many debates there have been," Wallace began. "This is the nineteenth debate. It is insane that there have been nineteen debates."
Wallace admitted that journalists gravitate toward questions about political horse racing at the expense of policy issues because policy questions "have been asked to death" and don't get as much headlines.
"I was a moderator on the panel of four of these debates, and they have been asked to death, 'What are you going -- What would you do to get the country working again? What would you do about Iran and the bomb? What would you do on immigration?" Wallace said.
"You're asked -- it's been asked, and answered, over and over again, so what you find yourself going to, because, one, it's new, and two, quite frankly, it'll make news, is, 'They've been saying terrible things about each other, their campaigns have been saying terrible things about each other on the trail, let's get them into a fight.'"
Wallace added: "Come on, if you were in that situation, would you really say, 'Well, tell me your tax policy?' I'm not saying it's a great moment in journalism, but on the other hand, they have been asked about almost everything a million times."
Wallace continued his criticism later, calling debates "stupid" and akin to "a car race. You really want to see if there's going to be a wreck or something like that." Wallace concluded, "They shouldn't be having these debates in the first place."
Wallace isn't alone in his feelings about the frequency of the debates. A former RNC chairman toldPolitico that the number of debates has gotten "out of hand" and Karl Rove recently wrote that "[d]ebates have nearly crippled campaigns." Conversely, The Huffington Post's Michael Calderonereported that CNN's Sam Feist and John King both "argue that numerous debates have been good for democracy."
Wallace's feelings aside, Fox News executives have used the debates as a way to highlight the purported difference between their "straight news" and opinion divisions. Fox News recently gave The New York Times -- a frequent recipient of the network's attacks -- access to its preparation for its last debate.
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