It shouldn’t feel amazing that Fox News let a top host from their own network get some airtime today to talk about a presidential debate he just hosted.
But it does feel amazing, because Wallace places blame on the president, accurately, for the battery of interruptions that derailed Tuesday’s debate. We all know how Trump’s going to react to this clip. And more importantly, Fox management knows.
Maybe Fox feels they have him over a barrel. For all the complaining he does about the network, there’s never any sustained effort on his part to punish it. He’ll tweet about OAN once in a blue moon, or he’ll whine about Fox’s polling, but ask him what he watched on TV last night and he’ll say, ”I watch Liz McDonald; she’s fantastic. I watched Fox Business. I watched Lou Dobbs last night, Sean Hannity last night, Tucker last night, Laura. I watched ‘Fox and Friends’ in the morning.”
He’s not going anywhere. And even if he wanted to, right now may be the moment in his presidency where he can least afford to alienate Fox. Media critics have been looking ahead to next month lately and noting that Fox is destined to play an outsized role in deciding whether Trump’s inevitable “I was cheated!” cries gain purchase on the right in the event that he loses. A few days ago the Times profiled Arnon Mishkin, the head of Fox’s “decision desk.” He and his staff will be responsible for “calling” states for Biden or Trump on Election Day — or the days following.
The nightmare scenario goes like this: It’s a close race, and Mr. Trump leads in the early vote count in Pennsylvania, and needs just that state to win the election. Tens of thousands of votes are still untallied, and the counting may take weeks — but Mr. Trump has already declared that he’s been re-elected. He’s demanding that Fox do the same, making calls to Fox Corporation’s co-chairman, Rupert Murdoch, or working back channels to the executive who effectively runs the network, Viet Dinh. Mr. Trump’s most loyal acolytes at Fox, the prime-time hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, are backing the president’s claim on the air. And Fox faces the temptation it often succumbs to: offering its audience the alternate reality it wants…
This time around, Mr. Mishkin has been skeptical of Mr. Trump’s chances on social media and in occasional Fox appearances, echoing Ms. Blanton’s polls. One of his friends told me that he’s expressed frustration that Fox won’t put those views on the air.
I assume OAN will be calling the election promptly for Trump at 8 p.m. ET. Will that put any pressure on Fox to make premature calls later in the evening in the Rust Belt on the president’s behalf?
One point Wallace makes in the clip below, and with which Bill Hemmer agrees, is that Trump inadvertently bailed out Biden from damaging answers several times by interrupting him. Bad enough to irritate viewers by butting in repeatedly for 90 minutes, but to rescue your opponent when he’s in the process of making trouble for himself is malpractice.
The person involved in Trump’s reelection effort said the president ruined several moments during the Cleveland debate when Biden appeared to be on the brink of delivering an unsatisfactory answer, but was interrupted by Trump before he could complete his sentence.
This person cited Biden’s response to Wallace when he asked if the former vice president, who has billed himself as a “transition candidate,” would support the “Green New Deal” climate plan championed by progressives. Biden, whose campaign website describes the multitrillion dollar proposal as a “crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face,” distanced himself from the deal — that is, until Trump jumped in to suggest his opponent had “just lost the radical left.”
“It was one of those things where you just kind of wanted him to finish his thought. I was like, ‘You’ve got him cornered, just let him finish it,’” said the person involved in Trump’s reelection.
His insistence that Biden has “lost the radical left” because of his debate answers is an odd talking point but one he’s repeated on Twitter (“Radical Left is dumping Sleepy Joe”) in the days since. His whole argument against Biden until now has been that Sleepy Joe is a trojan horse for socialism, too addled to resist progressives once he’s elected president. Now suddenly he’s telling people the opposite, that Biden is so firmly centrist that the left is deserting him. (Lefties of various stripes, including AOC, have spent the past 48 hours telling reporters that, no, they’re not ditching Biden. The hard-left magazine The Nation even endorsed him today.) If you’re trying to scare suburbanites into voting red by portraying Biden as a pawn of radicals, why turn around with a month to go and highlight the fact that his policies aren’t radical enough for the actual radicals?
Here’s Wallace, who, despite all the interruptions on Tuesday, isn’t a fan of cutting the mic of the leader of the free world to try to keep him in line.