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Media Matters Founder Calls For Debate Commission to Remove Chris Wallace as Moderator

chris wallaceDavid Brock, the founder of liberal media watchdog Media Matters, has sent a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates asking that they reconsider allowing Fox’s Chris Wallace to moderate the third and final presidential debate.

In the letter published Friday morning, Brock writes, “It is a glaring conflict of interest that Roger Ailes, who resigned from Fox News in July, simultaneously provides advice to Donald Trump while serving as a paid adviser to Fox News chief Rupert Murdoch—debate moderator Chris Wallace’s boss.”

Ailes was the founder and CEO of Fox News, whose two-decade tenure came to an ignominious end following a slew of sexual harassment allegations. Following his ouster, he reportedly began advising the Trump campaign on debate preparation.

Fox host Bret Baier has admitted he was “not comfortable” with Ailes advising Trump.

The letter comes after NBC’s Matt Lauer failed to push back Wednesday night against Trump when he lied about his previous stances on the Iraq War. Wallace responded to the outpouring of negative criticism Lauer received by saying that it would not be the moderator’s job to fact-check the candidates, a position that Brock also cited in his letter.

The third debate will take place on Oct. 19 and will occur at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Brock’s letter reads below in its entirety:

Mr. Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr.
Mr. Michael D. McCurry
Commission on Presidential Debates
1200 New Hampshire Ave NW #445 Washington, DC 20036

Dear Co-Chairmen Fahrenkopf and McCurry:

I am writing to request that you reconsider the eligibility of Chris Wallace as a debate moderator as a result of​ startling new public facts. I urge you to consider these facts and remove Mr. Wallace as the moderator of the third and final presidential debate.

I was concerned to read a September 8 CNN report noting that “in recent weeks, [Roger] Ailes has become one of the most influential voices in the room as [Donald] Trump prepares” for the first presidential debate. According to the CNN report, Ailes and Trump “met in person several times between June 2015 and June 2016” and since late July, Ailes “has taken on a much more active role in Trump’s campaign.”

Earlier this week on Good Morning America, Trump’s campaign manager ducked a question about whether it is appropriate for Ailes to be advising Trump. Simply put, the answer is no. It is a glaring conflict of interest that Roger Ailes, who resigned from Fox News in July, simultaneously provides advice to Donald Trump while serving as a paid adviser to Fox News chief Rupert Murdoch—debate moderator Chris Wallace’s boss.

Also troubling is Chris Wallace’s explicit pronouncement that he doesn’t intend to press the candidates to be truthful during the debate he moderates. When Wallace’s Fox News colleague Howard Kurtz asked what Wallace would do if either candidate made “assertions that you know to be untrue,” Wallace asserted, “That’s not my job. I do not believe it is my job to be a truth squad. It’s up to the other person to catch them on that.”

Ailes and Trump may already be unduly influencing Wallace to favor Trump in the debate. The New York Times‘ James Poniewozik was correct when he noted that Wallace’s stated fact-free approach to debate moderating helps Trump the most. The Times noted that “the fact-checking website PolitiFact has found far more false statements from Mr. Trump than from Mrs. Clinton.”

I am disappointed that an organization that prides itself on being non-partisan would make such a selection. I would respectfully ask that you reconsider your selection of Chris Wallace — or any current Fox News employee — as a presidential debate moderator until Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch cut ties with Roger Ailes.

Sincerely,

David Brock
Founder, Media Matters for America

Sam Reisman (@thericeman) is a staff editor at Mediaite.

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