Chris Wallace’s Plan For Wednesday’s Debate Is to Intervene as Little as Possible

He talked debate prep with Bret Baier.

Because Chris Wallace was busy preparing for his gig moderating Wednesday’s third and final 2016 presidential debate, Bret Baier took over hosting duties for this week’s Fox News Sunday. Wallace still made an appearance, but as interviewee rather than interviewer.

Wallace is “pretty close” to being ready, and is in the “tweaking” stage, aided by FNS researcher Lori Martin and executive producer [Jessica] Loker. “It’s just the three of us against the world here,” he told Baier.

In September, before any moderators had yet to take the stage, Wallace told Howard Kurtz in an interview that he planned to get out of the way of the candidates when his turn came. “I do not believe that it’s my job to be a truth squad,” he told Kurtz then.

His comment set off a philosophical debate about the moderating ideal, which then played out in real life as the moderators inhabited their own style and level of fact-check when their turn came.

After seeing what came before, Wallace is still sticking with his original plan. “If I think there’s a need for me to intervene, I will, but I would prefer not to,” he told Baier. “And basically you’re there as a time keeper, but you’re not a participant. You’re there just to make sure that they engage in the most interesting and fairest way possible.”

However his approach plays out in real life this Wednesday, Wallace knows they’ll be those that receive it well and those that don’t, so he’s trying to relax and focus on the moment, rather than anticipate the postmortem. “Look, there’s a lot of pressure. There’s a lot of stress,” he said. “We’ve seen the previous moderators get criticized, and at certain points I’ve had to remind myself, this may be a once in a life opportunity, so have fun. To the degree you can stop biting your nails, have fun with it.”