Chris Wallace admits losing control of chaotic Trump-Biden debate

TV host says he has never experienced anything like it before in career

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Wednesday 30 September 2020 23:49 BST
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Chris Wallace admitted he lost control of the first presidential debate and called the chaotic night “a terrible missed opportunity.”

Mr Wallace was the moderator as Donald Trump repeatedly interrupted the veteran TV journalist and his White House rival Joe Biden.

In an interview with the New York Times, Mr Wallace conceded he had been too slow to realise that the president’s tactic was to disrupt the event and ignore the rules his campaign had agreed to.

“I never dreamt that it would go off the tracks the way it did,” Mr Wallace told the paper.

“I’ve read some of the reviews, I know people think, Well, gee, I didn’t jump in soon enough.

“I guess I didn’t realise, and there was no way you could, hindsight being 20/20, that this was going to be the president’s strategy, not just for the beginning of the debate but the entire debate.”

Mr Wallace told the newspaper how he had felt as he sat on stage with the debate going of the tracks around him.

“I’m a pro. I’ve never been through anything like this,” he said.

Mr Wallace said he felt at the start the debate went well with the president and Mr Biden instantly engaging each other.

But he said he realised he had a problem when the president continued his attacks.

“If I didn’t try to seize control of the debate, which I don’t know that I ever really did, then it was going to just go completely off the tracks,” he said.

Mr Wallace was asked if he felt Mr Trump had destroyed the debate.

“Well, he certainly didn’t help,” he said.

In the wake of the debate, which was branded an “embarrassment” by some commentators, the Commission on Presidential Debates says it will modify the format to prevent a repeat of the disaster.

“As a practical matter, even if the president’s microphone had been shut, he still could have continued to interrupt, and it might well have been picked up on Biden’s microphone, and it still would have disrupted the proceedings in the hall,” he said.

And he warned about cutting off the microphones of either candidate noting that they each had the support of tens of millions of voters.

“Generally speaking, I did as well as I could, so I don’t have any second thoughts there,” said Mr. Wallace.

“I’m just disappointed with the results.

“For me, but much more importantly, I’m disappointed for the country, because it could have been a much more useful evening than it turned out to be.”

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