Chris Wallace: “In the president’s efforts to demonize the media, I think he has gotten some of our colleagues to go over the line themselves.”

From a Washington Post interview by national arts reporter Ge0ff Edgers of Fox News host Chris Wallace:

Every Friday, national arts reporter Geoff Edgers hosts The Washington Post’s first Instagram Live show from his barn in Concord, Mass. He has interviewed, among others, comedian Tiffany Haddish, singer Annie Lennox and cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Recently, Edgers chatted with Fox News Sunday host — and presidential debate moderator — Chris Wallace. Here are excerpts from their conversation.

Q: How do you feel the mainstream press has covered the Trump administration?

A: I give them a mixed grade. I think there’s been some terrific reporting. There’ve been some real exposés that have been done. The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold has done some excellent reporting about the Trump Foundation, the Trump charities. An awful lot of the stuff we know about what’s going on in this White House has come through really aggressive reporting from reporters at The Post, reporters at the New York Times like Maggie Haberman and Peter Baker. Bob Woodward. The flip side is that the president over the last four years has been involved in the most concerted campaign to discredit and delegitimize the press in our history. In the president’s efforts to demonize and villainize the media, I think he has gotten some of our colleagues to go over the line themselves. Stay in your lane. They have gone over and become advocates against the president. And I think that’s a huge mistake.

Q: What were you thinking when you moderated the first debate and President Trump’s guests weren’t wearing masks?

A: I was not fully conscious of the fact that they weren’t wearing masks until after the debate. I was really focused on preparing for the debate. But after I had the luxury to think about it, I was pissed off. . . .

Q: In your new book, “Countdown 1945: The Extraordinary Story of the Atomic Bomb and the 116 Days That Changed the World,” we read about how the country pulled together during World War II. And the folks working on the atomic bomb were able to keep information secret and focus on the greater goal, which was ending the war. Now we see a huge split in the country about covid-19. What is it about the American sensibility that doesn’t allow it to pull together in the same way as we did in World War II?

A: Look, we’re a much more polarized country than we were in 1945. We have two tribes in this country. And unfortunately, that has gotten mixed up in how we’re dealing with a virus. And it shouldn’t because you can be the most liberal person in Massachusetts and you can be the most conservative person in Arizona, and you’re equally vulnerable to covid-19. So what you think about the world has nothing to do with how you need to protect yourself and, more importantly, to protect other people.

Q: It’s become increasingly difficult for people to have a real discussion on TV. Your father, Mike Wallace, was a very famous newsman. How do you think he would have responded at this moment in time?

A: He wouldn’t have believed it. He was involved in political wars. He got hit by politicians. For some reason, the president thinks it’s going to get under my skin when he says, “Chris Wallace is no Mike Wallace,” to which my response is: One of us has a daddy issue, and it’s not me. . . .I think my father would be shocked at how much things have changed and how degraded our political discourse is.

Geoff Edgers, The Washington Post’s national arts reporter, covers everything from fine arts to popular culture. He’s the author of “Walk This Way: Run-DMC, Aerosmith, and the Song That Changed American Music Forever.” He is also the host of “Edge of Fame,” a podcast co-produced by WBUR Boston.

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