He is known as a tough interviewer, but Chris Wallace struggled Tuesday night to moderate the presidential debate, without being able to control a President Donald Trump who constantly interrupted.
Former Democratic adviser Claire McCaskill told NBC News that Wallace “was actually run over by Donald Trump’s outrageous behavior on stage.”
The president repeatedly ignored Wallace’s pleas to let Biden finish his answers from the beginning of the debate, which led to 90 minutes of “all against all,” in which he and Biden talked about each other.
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“I hate raising my voice, but why should I be different from you two?” intervened a frustrated Wallace in a moment.
“I think the country would be better served if we allowed both people to speak with fewer interruptions. I ask you, sir, to do that,” Wallace told Trump.
“And to him too, ” interrupted Trump, referring to Biden.
“Well, frankly, you’ve been interrupting more than he has, ” said Wallace.
Despite that and other attempts to get candidates to follow the rules of the debate they had agreed ahead of time, interruptions and crisscrossed conversations continued, much to the chagrin of viewers.
Democratic strata James Carville told MSNBC that Wallace “should receive a pay-per-fight” for the number of times he needed to “scold” Trump. Columnist Eugene Robinson said Wallace did his best, “but clearly lost control.”
Social media reviews were harsher.
“The loser of this debate is Chris Wallace,” author Igor Volsky tweeted.
The loser of this debate is Chris Wallace
— igorvolsky (@igorvolsky) September 30, 2020
One person tweeted, “Does Etsy already sell Chris Wallace rugs?”
Law professor Rick Hasen wrote on Twitter: “I generally like Chris Wallace as an interrogator and I think he’s a direct moderator,” but “he let himself be completely overturned by Trump. I should have stopped the debate until Trump obeyed.”
The reviews also came from the right, with complaints that Wallace challenged the president too much. “Chris Wallace, over the course of the night, went from moderator to polemist,” tweeted conservative commentator Ben Shapiro.
National Review editor Rich Lowry said the debate was such a disaster that there should be some major changes.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t another presidential debate in this cycle,” Lowry told NBC News. “At least I think the Presidential Debate Commission has to consider turning off the microphones of the participants, the person who wants to talk when it’s not their turn.”