Media Matters Founder: Chris Wallace Moderating a Debate is a Conflict of Interest

Appearing today on CNN’s Smerconish, Media Matters for America founder David Brock said that Fox News’ Chris Wallace hosting a presidential debate is “a conflict of interest on its face.”

Wallace, of course, worked for Roger Ailes at Fox News and Ailes is now a paid advisor to Donald Trump. Therefore, he argues, “the debate commission has a particular Chris Wallace problem that they need to address.”

Watch courtesy of Media Matters for America:

MICHAEL SMERCONISH (HOST): David Brock is joining me now. Hey David, let me get this out of the way. I think that Matt Lauer made a mistake. By the way, I’ve got immense respect for him, but I think he made a mistake when not confronting Donald Trump relative to Iraq. He absolutely should have made reference to the Howard Stern interview on Iraq and said to Donald Trump, “that’s just not true.” But in a debate scenario, is that really Lauer’s job or Chris Wallace’s job rather than the opponent? Isn’t that why the opponent is there? A debate is a joust, it’ll be up to Hillary Clinton to correct that record.
 
DAVID BROCK: Well, I don’t think you need a constant fact-checking operation going on inside the debate. But I do think where there are clear falsehoods that have been said before by these candidates, adequate preparation would be to challenge them on that. You’re a host, you’re going to challenge me in this interview. I can’t see just sitting there and reading off a list of questions, not listening, not having a real conversation and not challenging. As I said, it is certainly the role of the opponent as well to get in it. But I think you can’t just lay down there in the face of these falsehoods. And as we know, every independent fact-checking operation shows that Donald Trump, his lies are off the charts. Hillary was rated as the most truthful of the entire field, Republican, Democrats. So the point here is if he lays down, it’s going to advantage Trump, disadvantage Hillary.
 
SMERCONISH: But I’m concerned about the debate therefore becoming all about the moderator. And sometimes facts are fungible. People are still debating whether Candy Crowley was correct in the Obama/Romney debate by talking about what it was the president said pertaining to Benghazi and did he use the word terror the day after. I know you know of what I’m speaking.
 
BROCK: Sure.
 
SMERCONISH: So it’s not always so clear-cut. Given what the Howard Stern interview revealed about Donald Trump, that was a clear instance. So Matt Lauer should have said something. I just don’t want to open Pandora’s box.
 
BROCK: Right, no I don’t disagree with you. And as I said, I don’t think every time somebody says something it’s up to the moderator to fact-check it. But I think that was a very glaring instance, we’re in agreement on that. And the other part of my objection to Chris Wallace has to do with a conflict of interest on its face. Which you’ve already referenced my letter. Roger Ailes is advising Donald Trump. He’s also a paid advisor to Rupert Murdoch, who is Chris Wallace’s employer. And look: If Jeff Zucker was advising Hillary Clinton and also being paid by CNN, CNN’s critics would be squealing like stuck pigs and they’d be right to do it. This is wrong on its face. Optically it stinks. And so I think the debate commission has a particular Chris Wallace problem that they need to address.

Brock is right. What Fox News and its audience want is not a debate but rather a prolonged, and – free for Trump – campaign ad.

Wallace has said he has no intention of fact-checking Donald Trump during the debate and Trump has said that he is happy about that. As I wrote here earlier, Trump’s plan is to lie early and often, and Wallace’s plan is to let him.