Chris Wallace said Wednesday that Tuesday evening’s presidential debate was ‘a terrible missed opportunity’ that ‘went off the tracks’.
In his first comments since the event, the moderator said he accepted a glass of champagne from CEO of the Fox Corporation Lachlan Murdoch while waiting at the airport for his flight home from Cleveland.
But he said he ‘didn’t feel much like celebrating’ following a chaotic evening.
Donald Trump’s repeated interruptions of his rival Joe Biden and Wallace have prompted discussions that the moderator in the next debate could be given powers to cut the president’s microphone.
Trump has said he ‘was so disappointed in Fox’, telling a rally in Minnesota ‘I was debating two people last night.’
President Donald Trump, right, repeatedly interrupted rival Joe Biden, left, and veteran Fox News host Wallace, center, in the candidates’ taunt-filled initial prime-time encounter
Chris Wallace, left, said Wednesday that CEO of the Fox Corporation Lachlan Murdoch, right, handed him a glass of champagne after the presidential debate Tuesday evening
Wallace told The New York Times the debate was a ‘terrible missed opportunity’. He added: ‘I never dreamt that it would go off the tracks the way it did.’
The 90-minute face-off triggered widespread criticism of Trump, 74, and, to a lesser extent, Biden, 77. The Republican repeatedly bullied Biden and questioned his intelligence, while the Democratic nominee called Trump a racist, a liar and the worst president ever.
Organizers have promised the next rounds will be ‘more orderly’, with the next debate scheduled for October 15 in Miami.
‘Last night’s debate made clear that additional structure should be added to the format of the remaining debates to ensure a more orderly discussion of the issues,’ the Commission on Presidential Debates said in a statement.
Wallace, who said he thought the evening had started ‘great’, said: ‘I’m just sad with the way last night turned out.’
He added: ‘I guess I didn’t realize — 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.
‘I’m a pro. I’ve never been through anything like this.’
Wallace, who admits he is not sure he ever really controlled the debate, said it left him feeling ‘desperate’ at points.
Biden suggested a mute button might help and Trump complained the Commission on Presidential Debates was siding with the Democrats in the aftermath of Tuesday’s debate in Cleveland.
On the issue of muting microphones Wallace said: ‘As a practical matter, even if the president’s microphone had been shut, he still could have continued to interrupt.’
The president was critical of Wallace. ‘Chris had a tough night,’ Trump posted on Wednesday morning on Twitter, calling the debate a ‘two on one’ fight.
‘It was a national embarrassment,’ Biden said of the debate and Trump’s performance. ‘I am not going to speculate what happens at the second or third debate.’
Wallace, center, told The New York Times the debate was a ‘terrible missed opportunity’. He added: ‘I never dreamt that it would go off the tracks the way it did’. Trump is left, Biden, right
Viewers and political analysts likened the Fox News anchor’s performance to that of a kindergarten teacher as he repeatedly asked the candidates to stop interrupting each other and his pleas fell on deaf ears.
By the end of the night Wallace had spent more time scolding – mainly in Trump’s direction – than he did asking the questions he had to fight to get out.
Among the chorus of critics taking aim at Wallace were three of his Fox News colleagues – Laura Ingraham, Greg Gutfeld and Brian Kilmeade.
On CNN, Dana Bash called the debate a ‘s***show’, while her Jake Tapper branded it ‘a hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a train wreck’.
The 90-minute face-off triggered widespread criticism of Trump, left, and, to a lesser extent, Biden, right. The Republican president bullied Biden and questioned his intelligence, while the Democratic nominee called Trump a racist, a liar and the worst president ever
The debate commission defended Wallace, thanking him ‘for the professionalism and skill he brought to last night’s debate’ and promising ‘additional tools to maintain order.’
Fox News Media’s CEO Suzanne Scott, who was with Lachlan when he offered Wallace champagne, and President Jay Wallace – no relation – also praised the anchor in a company-wide memo on Wednesday afternoon.
‘We’d like to take a moment to thank and congratulate Chris Wallace for moderating last night’s extraordinary debate,’ the executives said.
‘We are extremely proud of his professionalism, skill and fortitude in a unique situation while doing everything possible to hold both candidates accountable. No moderator could have managed a debate of that magnitude better than Chris.’
Fox News Media’s CEO Suzanne Scott, who was with Lachlan when he offered Wallace champagne, praised the anchor in a company-wide memo on Wednesday afternoon
Wallace said: ‘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.’
After the debates commission said it would adopt changes the Trump campaign accused them of ‘moving the goalposts and changing the rules in the middle of the game.’
An estimated 73.1 million people tuned in to the chaotic face-off on Tuesday night across 16 networks, down from the 84 million who watched the first debate between Trump and Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Former vice president Biden has held a modest but steady lead in national voter surveys for months, although opinion polls in the battleground states that traditionally decide elections show a closer contest.