Chris Wallace Interviews President Trump: “That’s Not True, Sir.”

From a Washington Post story by Paul Farhi and Sarah Ellison headlined “Chris Wallace is uniquely qualified to interview Trump—and uniquely independent at Fox News”:

During his interview with President Trump, “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace may have uttered four of the most important words in the long, jagged history of Trump TV interviews: “That’s not true, sir.”

Wallace was referring specifically to Trump’s false assertion that the United States has the lowest coronavirus mortality rate in the world — but it set a more general tone. Given how rare it is for Trump to be called out so plainly during a televised interview — let alone one on Fox — this simple statement acted like a brake on Trump, forcing the president to backtrack and defend himself.

He couldn’t. . . .

That Wallace’s interview occurred on Fox — a network that Trump seems to regard as an extension of the White House — attests to the 72-year-old host’s independence from his employer. And it stood in stark contrast to the otherwise forgettable, fumbling or even downright fawning interviews with the president. ABC anchor David Muir, who in May landed the first non-Fox interview with Trump since the pandemic started, was hammered by critics — including inside his own network — for failing to challenge Trump’s blatant misinformation.

Wallace’s polite but firm questions and follow-ups suggested to a number of expert observers that he had cracked the code on interviewing Trump, a man who has spent decades outmaneuvering TV interviewers by evading questions, badgering the interviewer or laying down a fog of uncheckable boasts and outright lies. . . .

Wallace wasn’t merely prepared with the facts — he knew how to deploy them, with the experience and instincts to guide him on when to challenge Trump and when to lay back. He didn’t seek an explosive confrontation with Trump, in the style of his late father, the famously combative “60 Minutes” correspondent Mike Wallace. Such “moments” create telegenic clips, said Soledad O’Brien, the former CNN host — but end up being as much about the interviewer as the subject. . . .

Live interviews — the predominant format for national TV news interviews — offer immediacy and a sense of drama. But they pose hurdles for real-time fact-checking, enabling a wily politician to dash off questionable statements barely impeded. And they are rarely more than a few minutes long, compelling an interviewer to move through questions quickly, limiting the opportunity for follow-ups.

“Fox News Sunday’s” format overcame both these limitations. Wallace’s encounter with Trump was recorded Friday and aired about 48 hours later. This gave Wallace and his producers time to insert context and fact checks into the interview. . . .

Not all of Wallace’s competitors were so enamored of his Trump interview. One TV news host faulted Wallace for not zeroing in on the pandemic with detailed questions about the government’s failure to contain the virus. “It should have been a plea for action and a detailing of all the things [health officials] want him to do,” said the host, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because his network didn’t authorize an interview. . . .

Wallace, though, did ask Trump about the cognitive test he has frequently boasted about passing, creating another of the interview’s viral moments. Wallace pointed out that he, too, had taken it, and “it’s not the hardest test” — one question involved correctly identifying a picture of an elephant. Trump sputtered that the final few questions were much more challenging.

“Well, one of them was count back from 100 by seven,” Wallace noted, before helpfully offering, “Ninety-three. . . .”

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